Small businesses need help now to survive COVID-19 | Opinion

By Jeff Bartos and Jeffrey Brown

On Nov. 16, the City of Philadelphia imposed additional COVID-related restrictions that will severely impact all businesses. In the absence of additional stimulus and other government support, many small businesses simply will not survive these latest restrictions. Our elected leaders in Harrisburg and Washington must act now to distribute remaining CARES ACT funding and pass another round of Paycheck Protection Programs (PPP) and other support measures to save our Main Street businesses.

In March, the pandemic brought our world to a halt and led the federal government to approve trillions of dollars of stimulus. Many larger businesses were able to access stimulus funds quickly, while at the same time many small businesses struggled to access PPP and other funds. We immediately understood the challenges facing Main Street small businesses, and we acted.

Along with a group of business and civic leaders, we launched the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund in early May with a simple mission – provide $3,000 forgivable loans to Pennsylvania-based small businesses quickly, efficiently and free of red tape. Our hope at the time was that our fellow Pennsylvanians would heed the call to donate and help the small businesses in their communities survive the COVID-19 shutdowns until more comprehensive support arrived from the federal government.

We were right to place our faith in our fellow Pennsylvanians. Concerned citizens have donated millions of dollars and provided direct financial assistance to nearly 700 small businesses across Pennsylvania. The funding has helped small business owners save jobs, pay their leases, protect health benefits and pivot operations to survive this unprecedented downturn.

As time has gone on, we have expanded our volunteer base, raised more money, and set a goal of helping 1,000 small businesses. Through it all, the generosity and civic spirit of Pennsylvanians from all walks of life have been inspiring. At this time of crisis, Pennsylvanians truly have each other’s backs.

As we write, applications to the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund continue to flow daily, and we remain committed to raising more dollars and supporting more businesses. Every day, we read stories and watch videos of the small business owners who are giving every ounce of themselves to stay afloat. These courageous women and men are devoted to their employees and their communities. They understand that it is Main Street small businesses that enrich, and in many ways define, our shared civic life.

Based on what we are seeing every day, it was political malpractice for our elected officials in Washington to not pass a Main Street Rescue package before the election. Now, as COVID-19 rages across our country and Philadelphia and other large cities impose additional restrictions, it is downright cruel that many politicians appear to have turned their backs on small businesses.

Our experience shows that small businesses bear the brunt of shutdowns. As more restrictions loom, we must all sound the alarm that our small businesses may not survive if our leaders fail to act.

We sincerely hope this call to action is not dismissed by cynics who see every word and every act through a partisan lens. Our Board is comprised of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.

Our volunteers are not motivated by politics, but solely by a simple, shared mission to help their communities. Over the past six months, donors have made contributions ranging from $3.00 to $1 Million. Some families have donated their entire stimulus check of $2,400.

These selfless donors did not consider our political leanings; they simply wanted to help. We saw this spirit most definitively in the aftermath of looting that damaged many minority-owned small businesses in Philadelphia when a Philadelphia police officer donated $1,000 with the simple message: “I pray these businesses will be able to recover to help the residents of Pennsylvania. God Bless You.”

We are inspired daily by this rejection of cynicism and by the shared commitment to help the small business women and men who are the bedrock of our communities.

The work of the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund has helped over 758 small business owners across all 67 PA counties keep the lights on and preserve thousands of jobs. As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, now is the time for our elected officials at all levels of government to work together and show the same commitment to small businesses as the small businesses have shown to their employees and their communities.

It is time for our elected officials to pass a comprehensive Main Street Rescue bill and quickly provide much needed support to our small businesses. Now, before it is too late.

Read the full story here.