View from Washington, D.C.: Next COVID-19 relief bill outline released

July 2020 - By John McClelland, Ph.D. - ARA vice president for government affairs and chief economist

I am doing something I do not normally do in writing this story. However, these are extraordinary times and I know that you want to know what Congress is doing to save small businesses in the face of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, I need to be very clear up front that the information I am providing is just the start of a process that is likely to last for weeks and that no results are guaranteed.

On May 15, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6800, the $3.5 trillion HEROES Act. Since then Senate Republicans have been working on their next package of pandemic response legislation. The outline you can read by clicking here will be the basis for that legislation. Three provisions most important to equipment and event rental businesses hit hardest by the pandemic are the supplemental Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that will be made available to companies that can demonstrate a 50 percent revenue loss and have 300 or fewer employees. There also is going to be a provision for a capital loan program as an alternative to a supplemental PPP loan that will have similar eligibility requirements as the PPP loans. You should note that there are very few details included in this outline, so we do not yet know the terms of this alternative loan program. The outline also discusses a provision on liability protection which is meant to protect businesses from lawsuits unless they are grossly negligent.

While this outline is a positive development, I cannot stress enough the long road ahead for this legislation. There are going to be more negotiations with the Democrats in Congress and many of the proposals in the outline are controversial. However, we believe that Congress knows they have to act in order to save small businesses that are on the brink of insolvency so that the millions of workers who are now unemployed have jobs to return to when this pandemic is finally under control.

In addition, your job is not over. You need to take action to let your Congressional representatives know that you support supplemental PPP loans and access to long-term capital loans that are proposed in the outline. We’re asking all ARA members to call their representatives in Washington, D.C., and ask them to support these provisions. Click here for talking points to help guide that conversation and to find your representatives.

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