As the nation's lawmakers debate the contents of the next pandemic stimulus bill, a group of high powered business leaders at some of the most successful companies in the country are calling on Congress to support America's small businesses.
"This is not a call for bottomless handouts," the letter, released Monday, says. "It's a defining moment to show how capitalism can benefit all Americans, particularly entrepreneurs who have been forced to shutter or reduce the capacity of their businesses, through no fault of their own."
The more than 100 of signatories includes Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, Dunkin' Brands CEO David Holdaway, Alphabet (Google's parent company) CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. The letter was sent to Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell by Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz.
Critically, the help needs to land quickly to avoid a wave of permanent business closures.
"We cannot stress enough the urgent need to act. Every day that passes without a comprehensive recovery program makes recovery more difficult," the letter says. "By Labor Day, we foresee a wave of permanent closures if the right steps are not taken soon."
"By year end, the domino effect of lost jobs — as well as the lost services and lost products that small businesses provide — could be catastrophic," the letter says.
Specifically, the business leaders call for federally guaranteed loans to last "well into 2021" that give businesses "flexibility" in how the money is used. They also call for "at least partial loan forgiveness" for the hardest hit small to mid-sized businesses that are not publicly traded.
Expanding and extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is one way to get help to small businesses quickly. PPP was a lifeline to many small business owners, but it also was difficult to utilize for some, and the program faced criticism for delivering funds to businesses that weren't sufficiently small, ostensibly didn't need the money or had ties to President Donald Trump or others with political power.
Also, the funds to support small businesses need to go "particularly to those run by people of color, who have traditionally had less access to capital," the letter says. And funds should go to "strengthening community development financial institutions (CFDIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs)."
Small businesses need a bridge until a Covid-19 vaccine fully returns the country to operation, the letter says.
"Although our country is in the process of reopening, it is hardly a return to normal, and many businesses may be required to close again. Most small businesses don't have enough cash in the bank to weather more months of reduced revenue and customer traffic," the letter says. "To survive until a vaccine is widely available, millions of small businesses will require longer-term support from the federal government."