Democratic rep pushes for eligibility for coronavirus lending programs to be extended to chambers of commerce

Democratic rep pushes for eligibility for coronavirus lending programs to be extended to chambers of commerce
© Greg Nash

Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasTrade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support The Hill's Campaign Report: Buzz builds around Warren for VP MORE (D-N.H.) is calling for federal assistance to be made available to local chambers of commerce, arguing that helping chambers remain financially solvent amid the coronavirus pandemic will play a critical role in helping businesses get back on their feet. 

While the third coronavirus relief package passed by Congress last month allocated $350 billion toward the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — which provides loans and grants to small businesses struggling with the financial fallout caused by the virus — chambers of commerce are ineligible for the program. Pappas said after speaking with businesses in his district, he believes changes need to be made to protect chambers due to the support they provide to small businesses. 

“I've been talking with local chambers across my district, we've been on Zoom calls where I'm hearing from them and also the member businesses that they represent about the hardships they're all experiencing right now and Main Street has been obliterated by this pandemic, and it's really important that we respond, not only to help our local businesses weather this storm, but also our nonprofits, including local chambers of commerce,” he told The Hill in an interview Wednesday.  

ADVERTISEMENT

"These local chambers provide such critical resources to our business community [and if] different businesses are going to be able to get back up on their feet, they're going to need to be able to lean on organizations that are involved in our economy like these local chambers," Pappas continued. "So that's why we want to open up the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster loans that were part of the Cures Act, to be able to support these chambers, just as they do our businesses ... [and] other nonprofits.”

His comments come as Congress struggles to come to a consensus on a fourth coronavirus stimulus bill aimed at keeping the economy afloat, with members on both sides of the aisle voicing strong concerns over funding for the PPP drying up and the subsequent long-term negative effects on the economy if small businesses are unable remain solvent during throughout the crisis. 

“Ultimately, we've got to be responsible about how we approach this situation, we've got to beat this virus, provide more resources for our health care system also for state and local governments that are really starved of revenue right now and ensure they have the flexibility to be able to deal with response and relief efforts,” Pappas continued. 

“But, you know, central to anything we do, it's got to be focused on Main Street," he added. "In my state 99 percent of our businesses are small businesses, and they need to know that the support is can be there for them.”

While a divide between parties over what priorities should be included in the next bill remains, the push to provide funding to help local chambers of commerce amid the pandemic has been met with strong bipartisan support. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Pappas and Rep. Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickKaren Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening Democrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill MORE (R-Pa.) recently spearheaded a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBattle over reopening schools heats up Pelosi: Trump wearing a mask is 'an admission' that it can stop spread of coronavirus Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to reopening schools MORE (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress The Hill's Campaign Report: Florida's coronavirus surge raises questions about GOP convention MORE (R-Calif.), House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotDemocrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill Ohio is suddenly a 2020 battleground House passes bill to grant flexibility for small business aid program MORE (R-Ohio) advocating for the next relief bill to extend eligibility for the lending programs to local chambers and 501(c)(6) organizations that aim to help small businesses. The letter garnered 62 signatures from members on both sides of the aisle.  

Pappas said he’s optimistic that leaders in both parties will be open to the change. 

“I think our leadership is favorable to expanding eligibility for these small business programs. And I would hope that would go for all corners of the Capitol,” he said. “I just think this is so crucial to make sure that Main Street can weather this storm and retain its workforce and keep moving forward even through some really tough times.”