By Ann G. Daniels and Marcello Lanfranchi
Deadline: ASAP –
It’s less than a week into the small business program that Congress enacted as part of the latest COVID-19 relief package, and it’s already clear that the plan was massively inadequate. Banks are overwhelmed with small business loan applications. Just three days in Wells Fargo announced it wouldn’t even accept any more applications. The same banks that cheerfully took bailout money in 2008 are now saying they can’t do more for small businesses. The Treasury Department has indicated that they’re gonna need a bigger fund. Who could have guessed that the big business-friendly stimulus plan would have led to this?
The last stimulus bill included $349 billion for small businesses; the Treasury Department is reportedly preparing to ask Congress for another $200 billion. Congress has a chance to do better now than it did last time, and we need to tell them so. Please contact your members of Congress right away – they may vote on an aid package at any time.
Read on for a call script, contact info, background, and a personal story from an IEB member.
What you can do:
Tell your Members of Congress:
My name is ______, my zip code is ________, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Small businesses obviously didn’t get nearly enough help in the last stimulus plan, which gave most of the love to big corporations. Please give the Treasury Department more money for small businesses – but make sure it really is enough money, or this will happen again. And please make sure mechanisms are put in place so the money gets to the people who truly need it: for example, a bipartisan committee to have oversight over the funds, so that they are equitably distributed, and guidelines to ensure that communities of color and other under served communities get the help they need.
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
- Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
- Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
- Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
- Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065
The last time Congress considered a COVID relief stimulus package, the Democratic House and GOP Senate had a disagreement, which you can read about in our previous article. The House bill – while not perfect – included things like money for rent, food, and medical bills and debt relief, while the Senate bill gave most of the money to large corporations. When the dust settled and the bill became law, big business got $500 billion and small businesses got $377 billion. The funding for small businesses wasn’t nearly enough money, and didn’t include enough oversight – leading to the first-come-first-served stampede we’re seeing right now.
To see how this shakes out in the real world, here’s a letter written by IEB member Marcello Lanfranchi a few weeks ago to his elected representatives. Perhaps you, or someone you know, also has a personal story to tell?
I’m writing on behalf of my friend who owns a small business, a hair salon, in Walnut Creek. Her business began to struggle due to a major operation she had in February which corrected complications from an emergency surgery in 2018.
To prepare for last month’s procedure, she worked many, many extra hours in the preceding months. My friend has one subtenant who has continued to work during her absence. She had financially prepared to take this month off to recuperate, and to resume serving her clients, part-time, in April.
Then, the pandemic hit. As she’s not completely healed from the surgery, she’s at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and cannot return to work, especially not with the public.
As is the case for many small business owners, her financial standing is precarious. She contacted her commercial property management firm and asked to negotiate some form of rent abatement and was told, in no uncertain terms, that she is expected to pay rent on the retail space, in full, by April 10. The usual grace period is five days, so five extra days without penalty seems to be the only concession they’re willing to make.
With the prospect of indefinitely having no significant income, what is she supposed to do? I’m sure there are thousands of small business owners in California who are in the same position.
In fact, as I’m sure you’re aware, giant food service chains, such as Cheesecake Factory, Wendy’s, and Subway have publicly stated that they don’t know if they can afford to pay rent on their restaurants, as they do not own the properties at many of their locations. In fact, Cheesecake Factory has announced it will not be paying their April rent.
If big businesses can’t afford to pay their landlords, why would struggling small businesses be expected to? Why should hardworking citizens have to grovel to property management companies who refuse to even negotiate for penalty-free payment plans, deferred rent, rent holidays, or other options that can help their renters stay in business?
Is it really to the benefit of companies that own multiple properties to drive small business owners — the backbone of the American dream — into bankruptcy?
The bill passed by the US Senate contained $500 billion to giant corporations yet only $100 billion for hospitals. Whose services are more vital: hospitals and emergency medical care or leisure services and non-essential consumer goods?
And it appears that the $367 billion for small business owners are in the form of loans, not direct cash payments. Sinking further into debt will ruin many retailers and service providers, especially those whose work is unable to be done remotely. Tax relief could help a bit, but it won’t pay next month’s rent.
We are desperate for your leadership. I know you’re under tremendous pressure right now, but I suggest that struggling small businesses should be number two at the top of any and all economic relief packages, second only to aiding families who are struggling to make ends meet.
Giant corporations have the ability to get virtually interest-free loans and should already have capital that can be used to cushion the blow of an economic meltdown. Small businesses and families do not.
I implore you to consider the millions of Americans who have yet to recover from the Great Recession, and let the giant conglomerates fend for themselves.
What action can we expect you to make on this front?
Photo, “Closed Due to Apocalypse” by Christine Garofoli. Used by permission.
Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.
Marcello Lanfranchi is a native of Silicon Valley and a long-time progressive activist who has concentrated on reproductive rights, peace, queer rights, environmental sustainability, and civil rights. He currently makes a living in television and film production.