Alan Cohn: Congress needs to throw a real lifeline to small business

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Our small businesses and working families deserve nothing less.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken too many lives, made too many sick, and left us to fear for the safety of our friends, family, and neighbors.

It’s also put the lives of small businesses in our community on life support.

Unfortunately, the money appropriated by Congress has too often been rationed to save the largest businesses who have cozy connections to the big banks while businesses owned by our friends and neighbors have been stiffed and remain in critical condition.

I have spent my career as an investigative reporter asking tough questions and holding the powerful accountable. I’m running for Congress to bring that accountability to the powerful in Washington. Never has that been more important.

Americans and small businesses need help now — through cash payments — and it is the job of Congress to ensure the money is being distributed wisely, without waste, and, most of all, fairly.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) meant to help small businesses. The initial program set aside $349 billion for small businesses — funds that many small businesses, despite applying for loans, never received. But outrageously, large chain restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and other large publicly traded companies, were able to receive huge portions of the funds because they were given priority status by large financial institutions. Many small businesses did not get the funds they needed.

While Congress is now laying out a plan to fix this, we not only need more money in the PPP program, but also better safeguards to ensure that big companies don’t get to cut in line and get the funds first, and that banks aren’t allowed to favor their large customers first when doling the funds out.

Most importantly — we have to ask not only why the PPP failed to prioritize real small businesses in the first place, but also how we can ensure this doesn’t happen again. The latest deal on PPP funds have put some safeguards in place to ensure that funds actually go to small businesses, but we need real oversight from lawmakers who are experienced and dedicated to ensuring these funds are spent correctly.

And even beyond the federal PPP program, there are similar questions that must be addressed with the state’s small business bridge loan program, where several companies that applied for funds failed to get loans.

When I’m in Congress, I will bring the same kind of tenacity that defined my career as an investigative reporter to shine a light to ensure our tax dollars are being well spent. Our small businesses and working families deserve nothing less.

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Alan Cohn is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter and a Democratic candidate running in Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

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One comment

  • HelpSmallBusiness

    April 27, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    I doubt very much if another relief package can be worked out. Pelosi once again said that any package would require voting by mail and several other unacceptable provisions.

    Some, like Pelosi, are so motivated by politics, that the real issue of helping our economy and especially small businesses, is being lost in the political shuffle.

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