Merski Pushing for PA HEALS Legislation
Bill package seeks to uplift small local businesses
Local small businesses locked out of the Pennsylvania COVID-19 Working Capital Access (CWCA) Program and other loan programs may still have hope of staying afloat.
State Rep. Bob Merski (D, 2nd District) and others are supporting a proposed bill package called PA HEALS (PA Helping Employers And Labor Succeed), which includes a number of provisions aimed at helping our area's smallest and most vulnerable businesses pick themselves off the ground. With the critical damages that so many businesses have incurred, governmental triage efforts have had difficulty keeping up. PA HEALS is an attempt to rectify the situation.
Said Rep. Merski in a press release:
"Small businesses truly are the heart of our local economy and benefit our community in unique ways that large, big-box stores can't. Studies show neighborhood businesses circulate more money back into the local economy; employ more people per unit of sales; retain more employees during economic downturns; and are associated with higher community income and lower poverty levels."
"For these reasons, it's obvious that getting our small businesses back up and running as soon as the economy reopens benefits our entire community. Unfortunately, our small business owners have been trying to tap into funding streams that run dry before they even get to the well. The PA HEALS package of bills proposes innovative funding solutions to revive our small businesses and nonprofits now, so they'll be back to benefit the community when the economy reopens."
Highlights of the proposed PA HEALS legislation:
- Release of $100 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund (i.e. emergency savings account with available funding largely based on volatility studies) to be loaned without interest to small local businesses who missed out on the CWCA loans, which were tapped dry as of Apr. 1.
- Financial support to nonprofits furnishing vital services in the areas of food, healthcare, and housing.
- A new grant program, exclusively for businesses with 30 or fewer employees and earnings of less than $3 million annually
- A new microloan program (max $15,000) for the tiniest operations (e.g. startups, small family-owned businesses), with zero interest or payments in Year 1
- When/if the CWCA program reopens, rendering biotech companies eligible for funding.
The legislation was proposed by House Democrats largely hailing from the state's eastern counties. It is an extension of the party's Plan for PA, which seeks fair pay, benefits, and workplace protection for Pennsylvania's labor force, while ensuring assets remain within its communities.
Matt Swanseger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org