Our country is in crisis. In the United States alone, thousands of people have already lost their lives to the coronavirus and millions more are at risk. At the federal, state, and local levels, the government has taken dramatic action to stop the spread of this dangerous disease and save as many lives as possible, restricting travel, putting in place stay-at-home orders, and limiting interactions with those outside your household. Taking these steps has been critical for protecting the public health of our nation, but it has also come at an enormous cost to our small businesses.
As the coronavirus hits more communities and more protective measures are put in place, our neighborhood restaurants, movie theaters, hardware stores, nail salons, and many other local establishments have effectively been forced to shut down. That’s bad news not just for small-business owners but for the millions of workers they employ.
Texas is home to more than 2.7 small businesses, making up nearly half of our private sector workforce. All told, American small businesses employ 58.9 million people. These small businesses are the backbone of our economy.
In the wake of this crisis, many small businesses are stepping up to help their communities—from donating meals and supplies to support first responders and health care professionals, to delivering food and groceries to the elderly, to converting their factories and distilleries to produce masks, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective gear. When these small businesses are hurting through no fault of their own, we have a responsibility to step in and help.
That’s why Congress passed and the President signed into law the CARES Act, legislation to help those who are hurting the most as a result of the government’s unprecedented public health efforts.
This legislation appropriates $377 billion in emergency loans for small businesses. These loans are designed for job creators to easily hire back their employees and keep the lights on during and after this crisis.
$350 billion is specifically directed towards a newly established Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). If you are a small-business owner with 500 employees or fewer, a sole proprietor, an independent contractor, or self-employed person, starting this Friday, you can apply for and receive up to $10 million in emergency loans at an interest rate of 1% through the PPP. Your first loan payment will be deferred for six months, and no collateral or personal guarantees are required. You will not be charged any fees, and—critically—if the loan is used to pay salaries or to pay your business mortgage, rent, or utility bills, the loan will be forgiven.
And, if you have been forced to lay off or furlough workers in the past couple of weeks, in response to the crisis, you can hire them back, pay their salaries from the loan proceeds, and that loan will be forgiven.
All of this is designed to ensure as many people as possible keep their jobs and keep their paychecks to provide for their families.
You don’t have to go through the complex federal bureaucracy to apply. All you need to do is go to your local bank or community financial institution, so long as it is an accredited small business lender. To find a bank in your area and learn more about how to get a loan, visit the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) COVID-19 resources page.
Additionally, if you are a small-business owner looking for an immediate infusion of capital, you can apply for an Emergency Economic Injury Loan that will provide an emergency advance of $10,000 within three days of applying that will not have to be repaid. That’s a direct lifeline for the small businesses that are profoundly hurting.
For the rest of this year—and creating a strong pro-growth incentive—the CARES Act also delays the requirement for employers to pay the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax on wages paid to employees.
In addition to providing this critical support for workers and job creators, the CARES Act also takes steps to provide relief directly to households. In the coming weeks, the Treasury Department will send recovery checks to every individual making $99,000 or less and every couple who makes less $198,000 or less—up to $1,200 per adult, $2,400 per couple, and $500 per dependent child.
That’s real relief for the waiter, the manicurist, or the bartender who cannot serve customers and earn tips. That’s real relief for the flight attendant whose flights have been grounded or the airplane mechanic who no longer has planes to service. That’s real relief for all the people who are sitting at home right now and wondering how they are going to pay their bills or feed their families.
As we all work together to reduce the spread of the coronavirus—which is the objective of social distancing, travel restrictions, and stay-at-home orders—delivering this relief was critical to addressing the very real and significant challenges facing our workers, families, and job creators.
I am confident that together we will flatten the curve and ultimately defeat this virus. And when we do, our small businesses and the millions of people they employ will fuel our economic recovery.
Ted Cruz is a U.S. Senator for Texas.