Logistics industry groups are cheering the passage of a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill by a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives today, although some interests say the bill doesn’t go far enough in providing financial relief to Americans and small businesses reeling from the impact of widespread shutdowns crafted to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The bill, which is known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, had already passed in the Senate, so the legislation is now on its way to the White House, awaiting only a signature by President Trump.
On the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), a member of the Republican minority, applauded the bill’s passage. “The CARES Act represents help for American citizens and businesses on the front lines of this new kind of battle. We will overcome this pandemic and the impacts it has had on our fundamentally strong economy, and afterwards we will return from this crisis stronger together,” Graves said in a release.
Trucking industry trade group the American Trucking Associations has also applauded the bill, saying it will provide critical assistance to small- and midsize motor carriers needed to maintain payrolls, the economy's supply lines, and the movement of essential goods that all Americans rely on.
"At its core, trucking is an industry of small business. More than 90% of motor carriers in this country have fewer than six trucks, and it is critically important for the health of our nation's supply chain that small- and midsize carriers have accesses to liquidity so they can keep their drivers paid, trucks running, stores restocked and hospitals supplied," ATA President and CEO Chris Spear said Thursday after the Senate passed the bill.
“Truckers don't have the option to telework, and they're not asking for a handout. But they are asking for liquidity and the necessary bridge to keep their trucks moving as America recovers from this crisis,” Spear said.
According to the ATA, the bill would provide $377 billion to help prevent workers from losing their jobs and small businesses from going under due to economic losses caused by Covid-19. The Paycheck Protection Program would provide eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans to small employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. The bill would expand eligibility for entities suffering economic harm due to Covid-19 to access the Small Business Administration (SBA)’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), while also giving SBA more flexibility to process and disperse small dollar loans. It would also require SBA to pay all principal, interest, and fees on all existing SBA loan products for a period of up to six months, the ATA said.
Despite those benefits, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, a trade group representing restaurants and professional kitchens, praised the bill’s passage while insisting that “more must be done.”
“Today, Congress took a very important step to provide much needed relief to American citizens and businesses during this unprecedented time. The CARES Act will help ease some of the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 by providing cash flow and liquidity to small businesses,” Mark Allen, president & CEO of the International Foodservice Distributors Association, said in a release.
Foodservice distributors are on track to lose $24 billion in top line sales, receivables, and perishable inventory over the next three months due to the coronavirus crisis, the group said. “Small businesses operate on paper thin margins, but emergency funding can be the economic difference for the future of these entrepreneurs weighing their options right now. Business owners need to have some level of certainty as they plan for their future, which will allow their employees to plan their futures as well,” Allen said.
Likewise, the Main Street Alliance, which is a national network of small business coalitions, called the bill “a start on which we can improve.” Calling for Congress to begin work now on another relief bill, the group said that many small businesses would not take out loans to cover payroll with no revenue coming in, since such a move would put these loans at risk of not being eligible for forgiveness.
“This package is a start on which we can improve,” Amanda Ballantyne, executive director of the Main Street Alliance, said in a release. “The health care system and unemployment expansions are necessary. They need to be put in place quickly and with true equity of access. And we must ensure, in partnership with the SBA, this is implemented quickly and in a streamlined way that reduces any burden on already struggling small businesses.”