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Yahoo Finance Presents: Ivanka Trump - A Workforce in Peril

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On this episode of Yahoo Finance Presents, Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump joins Sibile Marcellus to explain what the federal government is doing to help small business owners during the COVID-19 crisis.

Video Transcript

SIBILE MARCELLUS: I'm Sibile Marcellus. Joining me for a special exclusive Yahoo Finance presents is Ivanka Trump, Senior Advisor to President Trump. Hi, Ivanka.

IVANKA TRUMP: Hi, how are you? This is my first. I've been watching these Skype, Zoom interviews all over television, but this is the first one I've participated in. So hopefully, it's a good one.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Glad to have you on. Now, President Trump on Friday signed a bill providing emergency relief to American workers and their families. How will it help small businesses?

IVANKA TRUMP: Oh, enormously. You know, really, the core of what the president has been advancing since the beginning of this administration is support for these businesses that are truly the backbone of this country. So when you think about business in America, a lot of people tend to think towards the big businesses. But the small businesses employ close to 50% of the American workforce, and obviously, are the most vulnerable from a cash flow situation and in these turbulent times.

So we were very, very focused. Not only throughout the course of the past three years on cutting regulations that disproportionately impact them, creating more flexibility, and ability to access capital on helping up skill and re-skill the workforce that they benefit on. I'm thinking about how we can expand benefits to them without hurting their bottom line in terms of paid family leave. Obviously, it's such an relevant issue right now, so we've been fighting for small business for a long time.

But in this particular bill, in addition to all of the other relief oriented elements that may help small business owner, individually or their family, there's over $350 billion in the form of loans. But they're really more grants than loans. What we're seeking to do is helping bridge people. We were in a incredibly healthy economy, so we want to just bridge people until the world reopens. And we believe that when the world reopens, it's all going to come back.

Because fundamentally, you talk to small business owners. They had never had a better year. You talk to workers. Wages were up. Employment was at historic lows, so we want to get people through this horrible health crisis that was no fault of their own. And one of the ways to do this is with these loans that, at the end of it, if they actually use the loan proceeds for payroll expenses, for overhead in the form of rent payments, utilities, then it's granted to them.

So it becomes a grant rather than a loan, if they use it to maintain their workforce. So for us, it's about helping these small business owners get the relief they need. If they're faced with a choice, they simply cannot make payroll, so therefore, they're not going to. We don't want that to be the outcome, so how do we get them quickly the money? Recognizing this isn't their fault, they won't be having revenue until, in some cases-- you know, every state is a little bit different in terms of what they're deciding to do in terms of mandatory shutdown. But making sure that they can keep their workforce employed and don't create vulnerabilities on the other end.

We're also doing a series of collaborations with the private sector to have them step up to the plate and really think about how they can keep that small business ecosystem strong. And then individually, we all have a part to play in this, right? So I think it's really awesome to hear from so many people, who are thinking about creative ways, those who have the means to do so to support small business within their communities, whether it's prepaying for a service that they know they're going to avail themselves of sometime in the next 60 to 12 months.

I did it on a personal level with my local dry cleaner and my local florist just to sort of assist in a small way during this time. So it's really heartening to see that, even people buying local produce and being really cognizant of that when they go to the grocery store to support farms, and local protein, and then freezing it. So there's a lot we can do individually.

But this bill, the president had a mandate, which was to think big and swing for the fences. And with these unprecedented times and with a forced closure of what was the healthiest economy ever, we thought big. And this is $2.2 trillion of relief that's going directly to workers, frontline responders, and small businesses.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: But Ivanka, how quickly is that money going to get to small businesses? Because they've got monthly bills, right? April's coming up. Businesses might not open until June, so what do you tell them?

IVANKA TRUMP: Well, no, speed is absolutely critical. I mean, they have to meet that overhead and have to have the ability and the cash flow to do it. As we saw in 2008, it took-- I think the average was four to six months to get the relief out the door. So we're getting really creative in teaming up with the private sector and deploying the money using the technology levers.

We have Secretary Mnuchin and his team have been working closely with the White House and the SBA to ensure that the SBA to the extent possible is taken out, so people can go directly to their banks. But it's backstopped by the SBA, so that that's one less point of filter. And this is going to happen this Friday.

So unprecedented speed that this ecosystem, this technology system will be up and running to ensure that not only from an individual perspective these direct deposits happen in a timely fashion. Because simply put, people can afford to go without a paycheck. But that also, small business owners are able to apply, and again, it's 7A lenders. Go to your local bank directly. The SBA is there to backstop it, but that's the quickest way that this transaction will happen. And starting Friday, we'll be ready to roll.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: So by Friday, small businesses will be receiving a check?

IVANKA TRUMP: By Friday, you can go through the process, apply, and use this mechanism, which is an incredible turnaround.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Right, and in terms of paid sick leave for businesses that are now offering it, how are they able to afford it? How is this bill helping, this package helping with that?

IVANKA TRUMP: Well, it's an incredibly important question, and we've been-- I mean, it's something I'm personally incredibly passionate about, paid family leave. And the importance that when people are sick, they're taking care of themselves, and their community, and their place of employment by not going to work. But for so many people, that's not an option.

So they'll go to work sick with the hope that they don't get their co-workers sick, but they can't afford to miss a paycheck. And maybe their employer won't allow them to. So I think this has elevated the importance of having protections in place, like paid family leave, which we were really proud to be able to create the first ever national program through a tax credit in tax cuts.

And then the president after 20 years of people trying was able to sign into law this past December paid family leave for our federal workforce, and we're the largest employer in the country. But with that said, we recognize that the people most likely not to have access oftentimes work for smaller businesses, and it's not because the smaller businesses don't want to provide it. They simply can't afford it. They can't afford to be paying somebody while they're out and having somebody else potentially substitute in the short term.

So what we've done through this program is we've created a mechanism, whereby employers that offer paid leave, if their companies have under 500 employees, which means the vast majority of those who are not currently offering it, if they offer it, we will give them a full reimbursement of that in the form of a tax credit. And if they still can't do that from a cash flow perspective, they can apply for a waiver, and we'll prepay it. So there, we created the flexibility knowing that every small business is in a different situation, but they want to look after their workers.

And they don't want a worker coming in who's sick, and they are compassionate. And oftentimes, these small businesses are like families, but they simply don't have the means to afford it. So we recognize that reality and made sure that offering this benefit to your employees would be at no cost to the small business owner.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: And how have you personally been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic at the White House? Are you social distancing with President Trump? How are you holding up?

IVANKA TRUMP: We're all doing our part, so I am a pretty strong advocate of social distancing from a personal practice perspective. So I've been doing everything I can. I've been working from home when I can, coming in only when I need to. I'm doing as much telephonically as possible. I've got three young kids, who are growing more restless by the day, which I'm sure is an experience many of-- pretty much every parent around the country is going through. So it's unique. It's a unique time.

But you know, I'm trying to reframe all of it through the lens of the joy of having this family connectivity, even if it's sometimes taxing. And on weekends and in the evenings, where normally, we would have had a work related commitment or something else, a school function, whatever it is, I've been trying to use it to expand my own mind and explore things I normally wouldn't have prioritized. So I've got a Coursera free course going in Greek and Roman mythology. So I'm rereading The Odyssey. I started to learn to play the guitar, and now, I'm really working on it.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: You're being really creative.

IVANKA TRUMP: As I sit with my kids, and when they're sleeping or napping, that's what I'm doing.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Well, it's good to know, at least, you're working from home. But you're coming up with some great ideas, Ivanka, that Americans can share, if you're looking for some too. Great to have you on. Thanks so much.

IVANKA TRUMP: Thank you.