By Senators Joni Ernst and Tim Scott
Izaah Knox has a passion for helping Iowans in our underserved communities. His non-profit, Urban Dreams, provides mental health and substance abuse supports, and helps folks get into college or enter the workforce. Organizations like his are so important to our state, and despite the challenges we face, we need to make sure they can continue to operate during COVID-19 and beyond.
Like many non-profits and small businesses across the country, Urban Dreams has felt the impact of the pandemic. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve heard the struggles firsthand from Iowans and South Carolinians, and Americans across the country. That’s why we got to work quickly to provide relief to these critical small businesses. As members of the Senate Small Business Committee, we helped create and usher in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has been a god-send to many of our mom and pop shops throughout the country. In Iowa alone, over 61,000 small businesses tapped into this program. So if you ask us, we’d say it’s been pretty helpful.
Right from the beginning, we knew we had to get this relief into the hands of small business owners quickly. And with the rushed process, there were some hurdles and corrections we needed to make. For example, we fought to make sure our non-profits, just like Urban Dreams, could tap into this program. But Izaah’s story is also unique. Due to size, income disparities, and industry-specific concentration, minority-and women-owned businesses have been disproportionality impacted by the pandemic, and some have really struggled to get access to the PPP or other relief. In Izaah’s case, he had a longtime relationship with his bank, so he was able to overcome some of those initial obstacles to receive a loan. But that’s not the case for all of our local employers. During a Small Business Committee hearing on this very issue, we both stressed the importance of breaking these barriers and making sure there’s equal opportunity for small businesses when it comes to pandemic relief.
Together, we’ve also been urging the Senate to replenish the PPP and allow some of our small businesses to get a second pass at this relief. In the latest COVID package, those hardest hit by the pandemic would have been able to get these additional resources. We set aside nearly $10 billion for small community lenders, and $25 billion for loans to businesses with fewer than 10 employees – both of which would have certainly helped our minority-owned small businesses. But unfortunately, our friends across the aisle decided to let politics get in the way and blocked this additional COVID relief.
We’re disappointed. This pandemic doesn’t care about politics. This isn’t about getting a win or a loss, it’s about delivering more resources to folks across the nation. It’s about supporting our front line workers, our main street businesses, our schools, child care centers, health care systems, and farmers. But we’re not giving up. We stand ready to work with folks in both parties to make sure our small businesses continue to be the backbone of our economy.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate. Tim Scott represents South Carolina in the United States Senate.