Rep. Wheatley on his plan to help local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
A few months ago, I provided you with an update on what I’m doing to get immediate help to our small businesses, including our minority and historically disadvantaged businesses. Make no doubt about it: they have been severely impacted since the start of the pandemic more than seven months ago.
The biggest challenge we’ve had is finding ways to help local businesses get the support they need without having to compete with big businesses that have significant ties to big lenders.
One step we’ve recently taken is using the state’s Community Development Financial Institution network, or CDFI, to get vital grants to these businesses. Through the COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program, the state Department of Community and Economic Development distributed funds to the state CDFI to reach the smallest and most vulnerable businesses in our area and statewide. Allegheny County is working with the CDFI network to create a countywide program of an additional $20 million for local businesses, with half of those funds earmarked for historically disadvantaged businesses.
I’ve also introduced a $10 billion bond measure to help frontline workers impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak that would do the following:
Provide additional wages to essential workers.
- Prohibit employers from requiring companies to use their Paid Time Off before being laid off due to the pandemic.
- Suspend all mortgage and rent payments for residents who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
- Allow any essential employee who works more than 150 hours during the pandemic to apply to have their student loans forgiven in full.
This measure is in addition to a $10 billion business relief package that would set aside $5 billion for small businesses, $3 billion for minority-owned businesses, $1.5 billion for the food and hospitality industry and $500 million for sole proprietors.
Despite the challenges my colleagues and I have faced in getting these measures up for a vote in the House, I am not deterred. It is imperative that we help our local businesses – especially ones which are women-owned, minority-owned, and historically disadvantaged —to survive through the current pandemic and be able to continue to grow for years to come.
If you’re a small business and need help, or if you have any issues or concerns related to COVID-19 assistance, please reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call The People’s Office at 412-471-7760.