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The Cincinnati Enquirer: Opinion: Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline to businesses, families

Washington, July 22, 2020 | comments
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Back in March, as state after state closed nonessential businesses and implemented stay-at-home orders to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve, most everyone in Congress knew we had to act quickly to help the American people deal with the pandemic. Moreover, we knew if we didn’t act rapidly enough, we faced the potential of an economic catastrophe.

As ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, my focus was helping small businesses survive the government-mandated closures, while continuing to pay their employees. I worked closely with Democratic Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez, and our counterparts in the Senate. The result – the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – has saved millions of American jobs.

The Paycheck Protection Program became law on March 27, as part of the CARES Act.  A week later, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of the Treasury had issued guidelines for the program, and banks and credit unions began to process loans. Within two weeks, the initial $350 billion was exhausted, so Congress authorized another $310 billion for the program in order to help more small businesses and more American workers.

Given the breakneck pace under which we were operating, we knew that the program wouldn’t be perfect, and that there’d be glitches along the way. But, we also knew speed was the key. We had to get money into the hands of small businesses, who were shut down through no fault of their own, to help them survive and pay their employees until the economy could reopen.

So we made adjustments along the way, and Congress is now conducting vigorous oversight of the program.

As we’ve moved into the oversight process, what’s been most surprising is not the instances of the program being abused, but rather how well the program worked. A lot of credit needs to go to the banks and the small business owners themselves for handling this rather complicated process professionally.

The PPP loan data released last week by the SBA on its website is staggering. We’ve known for months that the program was critically important for both the local and national economies, but now we’re beginning to realize the true impact of these vital loans.

Nationally, there have been nearly 5 million loans totaling over $500 billion issued to businesses employing over 50 million Americans. According to the SBA, PPP loans helped preserve 84% of all small business jobs in America.

In Ohio, more than 140,000 businesses received over $18 billion, helping them to pay nearly 2 million Ohioans – an amazing 90% of those employed by small businesses in the state.

In the First Congressional District, which I have the honor to represent, and in Greater Cincinnati overall, the numbers are even better. According to SBA calculations, more jobs were saved in our district than anywhere else in Ohio. Over 17,000 businesses in Hamilton and Warren counties received PPP loans, and those loans saved over 250,000 jobs.

In many cases, these loans were the difference between small business owners staying in business and paying their employees, or closing their doors forever. While the numbers are impressive, what’s really important is the hundreds of thousands of lives positively impacted by this program.

What’s absolutely certain is just how critically important the Paycheck Protection Program has been to the American people and our economy. It has extended an essential lifeline to families and businesses across the country, and right here in Greater Cincinnati.

Congressman Steve Chabot, R-Westwood, represents Ohio’s 1st District in the United States House of Representatives and is the ranking member of the House Committee on Small Business.

Read the op-Ed on The Cincinnati Enquirer here. 

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