Letter of support for small, local businesses in Federal Stimulus Packages
Small, local businesses are the backbone of Maine's towns, and right now they need our support. Many small businesses in Maine led the way by pro-actively closing or taking steps to protect public health. Now non-essential businesses are shuttered, taking in little to no income. Through no fault of their own, small business owners and their employees are at risk of losing their livelihoods. As many as 25% of small businesses could close permanently unless the Federal Government acts quickly.

The Federal Government has launched several programs to support these local businesses, but right now the programs are not providing the needed support to keep these businesses afloat.

The $350 billion dollar package for small businesses in the CARES Act was insufficient from the outset, which has led to problems in its implementation.

We are asking for:

1) Sufficient funding for the small business support programs. Several economists have estimated small businesses need at least $1.2 trillion dollars in federal aid. These funds should be delivered through the US Treasury in order to ensure that every small business gets quick relief.

2) If the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) continues to be the primary source of federal support for small businesses, 100% of all necessary expenses, including rent and utilities, should qualify to be forgiven. Right now, only 25% of a PPP loan can go toward rent and utilities in order for the loan to be fully forgiven. This requirement is not in the CARES Act, but included in guidance from the Treasury because the program is underfunded. This regulatory guidance makes it more likely that downtown businesses, where rent is a higher percentage of monthly operations, will be forced to take on debt.

3) Extend the PPP's deadline to re-hire employees. Many businesses in Maine had to lay off or furlough their staff prior to the passage of the PPP. Now they are being asked to re-hire them and be at full capacity by June 30th. At this time, it is not even clear if all businesses will be permitted to operate on June 30th, and public-facing businesses may need months after opening to return to full staffing levels. The deadline should to re-hire should be extended to six months following the re-opening of their business.

4) Reinstate Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advance to the original $10,000 per business. None of these funds have been disbursed, and there are now indications that very small businesses may receive only a fraction of the promised funding. Again, the CARES Act did not include any limitations on the EIDL advances. These advances had the potential to be the saving grace for many small businesses, but the most in-need businesses have been unable to obtain these critical funds.

Thank you for working to support the small, local businesses that give our towns character and make Maine such a unique place to live, work, and visit.

Sincerely,

Mary Alice Scott
Executive Director
Portland Buy Local

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