Opinion: Building a Better Future

Opinion: Building a Better Future

Jacksonville Free Press

August 21, 2020

By Frank Knapp Jr.

The stock market is at an all-time high and the Trump Administration is calling it a sign of a strong economic rebound.

Wall Street investors are doing well but only 20% of Americans work for an S&P 500 company.

Most Americans and small businesses are not doing well.  Even President Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, recently said, “there’s plenty of small businesses that are on the ropes.”

Small businesses employ nearly half of all workers.  When these small businesses are struggling and cannot rehire laid off workers or close permanently, Americans and our national economy suffers.

In Florida, new unemployment filings have risen again as they have nationwide.  Over 10 million workers across the country who lost their jobs due to the pandemic-recession are still looking for work.  Hit hardest are those who were making $20 an hour or below. Fewer than half of these workers who lost their jobs have been rehired.

Congress helped keep the economy afloat with stimulus packages but now has failed to pass a new bill to get money to the unemployed and small businesses.

Small Business for America’s Future (SBAF), a national coalition of small business organizations and leaders, has a policy agenda to help entrepreneurs and small businesses not only survive this recession but to prosper in the future.

This is especially important for minority small business owners who were largely locked out of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans because they are self-employed or did not have a good relationship with a lender.

Before Congress approved the PPP effort, SBAF was calling for grants to small businesses instead of loans to avoid financial lenders acting as gatekeepers deciding which small businesses would get the financial help they needed.

That is why today we are supporting a bi-partisan bill by Sen. Corey Booker called the RELIEF for Main Street Act.  This bill would provide $50 billion to local governments for relief funds for small businesses with less than 20 employees, especially in historically disadvantaged communities.

But access to capital for minority and other entrepreneurs is not just a problem today.  Banks have always been reluctant to make loans to very small businesses that are naturally perceived as risky.

This has been a major factor in our nation being at a 40-year low in new business startups.  This is a crisis for our economy because most net new jobs in our country come from small businesses under 5 years of age with four or fewer employees.  Without healthy small businesses, the nation’s economy suffers.

That is why addressing this access to capital issue is one of SBAF’s policy goals.  If private lenders will not make needed loans to micro businesses, the federal government must step up.

The pandemic and massive job losses have also exposed the problem with employer-based healthcare and the high cost of healthcare.  The federal government must take steps to lower healthcare costs, especially prescription drugs.  Strengthening the Affordable Care Act and increasing federal premium assistance for all Americans will not only reduce costs to our citizens but also would address the problem of workers losing their health insurance when it is tied to their jobs.

Finally, SBAF believes that we need to roll back the permanent 40% corporate tax rate cut passed in 2017 that did not help small businesses.  Instead of corporations using their windfall to raise wages, give bonuses and invest in manufacturing to help our whole economy, these big businesses used the money to help their stockholders and executives.

We need that money back to invest in healthcare, roads and bridges, schools, and nationwide high-speed internet.

The SBAF policy agenda is one that will create an equitable and secure economy for all entrepreneurs and small businesses; and the workers they employee.

Frank Knapp is the Co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future and President/CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.

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