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Blumenthal Releases ‘Paycheck Security’ Grant Proposal to Help Businesses Keep Workers on Payrolls

As of last week, 1 in 4 small businesses had already shut down; more than 40% of small businesses expected to close permanently within six months – more dramatic steps needed to help workers, keep economy afloat

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Doug Jones (D-AL) today released a proposal to establish a ‘Paycheck Security’ program to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved.

“Instead of allowing businesses to go into free fall and trying to pick up the pieces later, we’re proposing a guardrail at the edge of the precipice. Our plan gives workers the steady comfort of a consistent paycheck from an employer they can go back to when the crisis abates. And we’re offering business the ability to hold onto those workers, so they can start up again as easily as possible. If we fail to take aggressive relief measures now, we’ll kneecap our future recovery,” said Sen. Blumenthal.

“The health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 is unprecedented in American history. More than 22 million people have already filed unemployment claims, and projections suggest that the unemployment rate could top that of the Great Depression by this summer if Congress does not do more to help businesses and workers stay afloat,” said Sen. Warner. “While Congress quickly took some steps with the PPP program and expanding access to disaster relief loans, these early lifelines will not be enough on their own to prevent more job losses and alleviate the economic uncertainty. It will be much less costly to our economy and our country in the long run if we can offer direct grants to businesses facing heavy losses so that they can keep workers on payroll and benefits through the next several months of this crisis. Otherwise, we could see millions more businesses go bankrupt, leave millions more Americans out of work, and make it that much harder to get our economy going again once we get through this public health emergency.”

“With 22 million Americans filing for unemployment and up to 35 million expected to become uninsured, we are the only wealthy nation on Earth where our people are losing jobs and health care at precisely the moment that they need them the most,” said Sen. Sanders. “This is a man-made crisis. Our job now is to join the rest of the industrialized world and pass the Paycheck Security Act. This is not a partisan issue: People across the political spectrum agree that Congress has got to build upon previous legislation to keep people on their employers’ payrolls and fully restore the wages and benefits of every rank-and-file worker in America during this pandemic.”

“While we’re taking drastic steps to ensure the health and safety of the American people, we must also keep our hard-hit small businesses and their employees financially secure,” Sen. Jones said. “The Paycheck Security Act will put existing infrastructure to work to help companies maintain payroll while cutting the red tape that’s slowing down relief to the American workers who need it most. Folks on both sides of the aisle agree we have to do more at the federal level to help small businesses and their employees, especially as it appears we’ll have a slow, staggered process to get folks back to work. This proposal is a creative solution that we can be implemented quickly to help businesses and workers in Alabama and across the country.”

Under the terms of the Senators’ paycheck security proposal:

  • All employers who have suffered a month-over-month drop in revenues of at least 20 percent will be eligible to receive grants covering a portion of payroll and benefits for at least the next six months.
  • Grants will cover salaries and wages up to $90,000 for each furloughed or laid off employee, plus benefits, as well as up to an additional 20 percent of revenues to cover fixed operating costs such as rent, utilities, insurance policies, and maintenance.
  • Employers and non-profits of all sizes will be eligible if they can verify revenue losses and don’t otherwise have more than 18 months of their payroll available in cash.
  • Businesses that have received a Paycheck Protection Program loan or an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or have otherwise accessed the Federal Reserve 13(3) facilities, will be ineligible, unless they exhaust these other programs or use the Payroll Security Program grant to pay back their existing loans.

The Senators released an extensive white paper detailing eligibility, verification, and other contours of their proposal, which is available here.

“We are headed toward catastrophic levels of unemployment–20% or higher–and we must act to ensure that millions more workers are paid for as long as this crisis endures by making support for employers who keep workers on payroll simpler, faster and more universal. The Paycheck Security Act does just that,” said Richard L. Trumka, President, AFL-CIO.

“The Paycheck Security Act is a bold program of grants, not loans, appropriately scaled to meet the massive challenge facing workers and firms. Equally important, it’s designed to be quickly and efficiently executed,” said Jared Bernstein, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The Paycheck Security proposal is the right solution at the right time. It supports workers, keeps businesses afloat, and plays an oversized told in saving the American economy,” said John Bridgeland, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy for George W. Bush. “These Senators recognize that Congress should be supporting employment, not massive unemployment. We need this smart proposal to be enacted now.”

“The most important thing we can do for workers and our economy is keep as many people as possible connected to their jobs, paychecks and healthcare. The best way to do that is to make it easy for employers to keep payroll running--regardless of whether workers are coming in--and at the same time to rein in the worst corporate behavior. That's what we did for aviation workers in the CARES Act, and it's what the Paycheck Security Act would accomplish for tens of millions more workers,” said Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO.

“To prevent another Great Depression, the government must protect workers and businesses while the coronavirus crisis rages. The Paycheck Security Act provides bold and much-needed support to our communities, allowing workers to remain on payroll and covered by their health insurance. It will save millions of jobs and put the United States on track for a faster recovery,” said Gabriel Zucman, Professor of Economics, University of California Berkeley.

Workers and their families are paying the price for going into the current crisis with a weak social insurance system and public safety net. Given this pre-existing weakness, transformative responses to this economic crisis have to be put together on the fly, and the Paycheck Security Act is a bold solution to provide needed relief during the lockdown period of the crisis and would put us in much better position to mount a rapid recovery once the public health all-clear was sounded,” said Josh Bivens, Director of Research, Economic Policy Institute.

“The Paycheck Security Act addresses the issue we face head on: government keeps businesses alive and workers paid and safe while our economy is in hibernation. It will save tens of millions of jobs and millions of businesses from destruction. Our people and economy will be able spring back to work as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Emmanuel Saez, Professor of Economics, University of California Berkeley.

“We're thrilled the Senators are seeking long-term grant assistance for businesses harmed by COVID-19 in his proposal for the Paycheck Security Program,” said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority. “This will provide a much more streamlined process that will allow businesses to continue to operate and keep people employed, and it will help the most vulnerable small businesses that have been left behind by the inefficient and underfunded Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The Senators’ proposal addresses the needs of businesses and their employees now and throughout the rest of this crisis, reducing the need to keep going back to Congress for band-aid fixes.”