Wyden, Merkley Co-sponsor Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today co-sponsored a new comprehensive package of measures that would provide more than $370 billion to the hardest-hit, most vulnerable small businesses in Oregon and nationwide.

Both senators said the HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act is a must to respond to the economic fallout of COVID-19 on small business, including minority-owned businesses and industries, such as restaurants and live venues.

“Oregon is an overwhelmingly small business state, and those small businesses generate jobs and pump life into communities across our state,” saidWyden, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee. “This legislation would provide an urgently needed lifeline for  thousands of small businesses struggling to keep their doors open and to employ Oregonians who want very much to earn a paycheck.”

“Throughout this crisis, I’ve been in touch with small business owners and workers struggling to weather the storm,” said Merkley. “And like so many of these Oregonians, I’m frustrated by continued inaction from some in Washington, DC who are more interested in lining the pockets of Wall Street executives than in saving our Main Streets. If we don’t act soon, we risk losing countless businesses across our state that families rely on—not only for the valuable services they provide, but for their livelihoods—and I’m going to keep fighting to do all that I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act is nearly identical to the small business provisions of HEROES 2.0, which passed the House of Representatives on October 1.

The HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act would:

·       Extend and improve the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to better serve small businesses. HEROES 2.0 extends PPP through March 2021; provides a second PPP for the hardest-hit small businesses and nonprofits; expands eligibility to ensure that all nonprofits, regardless of size and type, critical access hospitals, and local news media can participate; simplifies the forgiveness process; repeals the requirement of deducting an EIDL advance from the PPP forgiveness amount; and removes limitations that unfairly restrict small businesses owned by formerly incarcerated individuals from securing a PPP loan.

·       Extend and expand the Debt Relief program. HEROES 2.0 extends payments of principal, interest, and fees on all preexisting and new Small Business Administration (SBA) 7(a), 504 and microloans for up to a year, with more relief targeted to existing borrowers in underserved markets and the hardest-hit sectors. This debt relief program is also expanded to include SBA’s physical and EIDL disaster loans.

·       Support the smallest, most vulnerable businesses. HEROES 2.0 includes a new $40 billion Lifeline Grant program, of which half is set aside for undeserved businesses, that provides grants of up to $50,000 to vulnerable small businesses that have suffered a significant economic loss and creates a new $15 billion grant program for state and local governments to provide funds to vulnerable small businesses in their communities.

·       Deliver targeted assistance to small businesses in struggling industries. HEROES 2.0 includes the Save our Stages (SOS) Act and the RESTAURANTS Act, which provide dedicated assistance for industries that rely on large gatherings, including restaurants, concert venues, and theaters.

·       Invest in underserved communities. HEROES 2.0 invests in the mission- and community-based lenders that have a demonstrated history of getting capital to minorities, women, and other underserved communities. Specifically, it includes a dedicated $15 billion PPP set-aside for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), and other mission lenders, $1 billion in support for CDFIs, and $13 billion for a new Neighborhood Capital Investment Program to support CDFIs and MDIs, among other key policies to support the work of these lenders in underserved communities.

·       Improve existing small business initiatives. HEROES 2.0 builds on SBA’s core programs, including 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, and the Microloan program, by making them more affordable and useful to small businesses, and provides $1 billion for investment capital to underserved businesses. It also strengthens the accountability and transparency of SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and makes other commonsense improvements like removing the Trump Administration’s arbitrary $150,000 cap on EIDL loans.

·       Help minority-owned businesses respond to COVID-19. HEROES 2.0 provides emergency grants to minority business enterprises through the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The legislation also formally and permanently establishes MBDA and gives it the tools to carry out its mission to help minority entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

In addition to Wyden and Merkley, the bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) is also cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

A web version of this release is here.