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As stimulus bill sits in limbo, small businesses await relief

Sarah Phillips, Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. KMXT Photo/Maggie Wall.
Sarah Phillips, Kodiak Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. KMXT Photo/Maggie Wall.

Americans have been anxiously awaiting another economic stimulus bill since the CARES Act in late March, and a second bill could pass at any moment having made its way through the House and Senate, but President Trump has thus far refused to sign it.

Business leaders around the country are tracking the new bill up for consideration, and how it could help their local economies. Kodiak Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Sarah Phillips is no exception. She says the most important feature of this new bill is how the loans are granted– that businesses who weren’t able to access funds in the last bill now have a much better chance in the new one.

“Towards the end of the PPP funding that was most recently available, fishermen finally got the opportunity to apply,” Phillips said. “But by the time they got that opportunity funds had run out, so they didn’t get much of a shot. My biggest message that I can get across is try again; if you weren’t successful this first time, if you were excluded in the first set of PPP loans– try again because this program is probably replacing a lot of state and local funding that we relied on here in Kodiak.”

Another big sticking point is whether funds for Paycheck Protection Programs were taxable. In this bill they are not.

“And a lot of people were working on their taxes and really getting afraid that they would have to close their doors because these tax bills for that kind of revenue make a huge difference, and they weren’t going to be able to pay it,” Phillips said. “And so the fact that Congress has made it so that this is not taxable income is a huge relief. And everyone in our business community should just be thrilled about that.”

While there were multiple items of great benefit to small businesses in Kodiak, there is no doubt in Phillips’ mind that there will need to be multiple bills in the future.

“…without a doubt, we’re going to need protections with that, our businesses are still very likely to need another round of funding. We know that the last time, most of this funding only helped businesses for about three months. And that’s really about the same timeline they’re thinking for this aid package,” Phillips said. “I know that President Elect Biden has made very clear that this relief bill is a down payment towards what we’re going to have to do in the future. I think there’s not a question; we know that it’s going to be at least six months before we’re feeling- hopefully- a little bit more normal as a society again. And so this, I imagine is only the first of two or three more to come.”

Despite Phillips’ hopes that the bill would pass, the Trump administration announced that the bill– which featured direct payments to consumers at half the size of the previous CARES Act stimulus bill– is simply too small, and the president says he won’t sign a version into law with less than $2000 to consumers.

While she didn’t weigh in on whether the push for greater single-payments was justified, she did say that relief was needed sooner rather than later.

“We’re looking at seeing the potential… a month or months delay in this bill becoming– or a new bill becoming law,” Phillips said. “Obviously, I don’t feel like our businesses can wait that long. We have a critical need right now in Kodiak, and amongst all the businesses in the US.”

In the meantime, the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce will be hosting online briefings available from their Facebook page, live at 4pm on Thursdays to inform small business owners of their options in this crisis economy.