Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement today in response to the release of the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act – the proposal put forward by the White House and Senate Republican leaders as a starting point for bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on another COVID-19 relief package:

“The Democratic House passed the HEROES Act ten weeks ago. Since then, the health and economic crisis has continued unabated. Millions of Americans are facing eviction or foreclosure; state and local governments are drowning in red ink; and 30 million Americans relying on unemployment to survive are facing the expiration of expanded benefits this week. Instead of taking urgently needed steps to address these problems, the White House and Senate Republican leaders have put forward a bill that fails to match the scale of the crisis or the needs of the American people. Instead, their proposal focuses on liability protections for businesses, as though that is our country’s most urgent challenge right now, and bizarrely includes money for a new FBI building in Washington, D.C. that has no connection to the current crisis and which the FBI neither wants or needs, having already spent millions planning for a new headquarters building in Virginia or Maryland.

“In our conversations with the Administration and our colleagues from both parties, we will be strongly advocating for a bill that funds critical priorities like healthcare and testing, rental and mortgage assistance, broadband access, child care, K-12 and higher education, job training, election security, hunger assistance, and help for communities of color that have been disproportionately hard-hit by the effects of COVID-19. The American people simply cannot afford for the Senate to waste any more time in addressing these urgent crises, and we are eager to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who is ready to do something about these serious challenges.” 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act on May 15 by a vote of 208 - 199.

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WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are introducing the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, legislation to make a new, $17.9 billion investment in low-income and minority communities that have been especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) will introduce companion legislation in the House.

The legislation would provide eligible community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) with capital, liquidity, and operational capacity, to expand the flow of credit into underserved, minority, and historically disadvantaged communities, helping small businesses stay afloat and expand operations, while providing affordable access to credit for lower income borrowers. The Senators are seeking to include the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act in any upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation to help hard-hit communities weather and recover from the economic blow of the pandemic.

“We know that Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately suffering from the dual health and economic effects of COVID-19, putting many low-income and minority neighborhoods at risk of sustained economic damage that will last far beyond the current crisis. Steps like PPP loans, expanded UI, and one-time stimulus payments helped to soften the blow in some places, but not enough. Jobs that supported these neighborhoods are disappearing overnight, and if we don’t act now, we could see a hemorrhaging of already-limited economic opportunities from these communities that will take generations to recover,” said Sen. Warner. “The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act directs billions in new investments to help low- income and minority communities withstand this unprecedented economic downturn and emerge stronger with increased access to capital and new economic opportunities.”

“Even before the pandemic, communities of color and low-income communities were facing deep- seated challenges and structural inequities in accessing capital and economic opportunity,” said Sen. Booker. “Now, as the Coronavirus crisis exposes and exacerbates these inequities, it’s past time we act boldly, by investing in the families, businesses, and communities that have been most impacted and providing them with the resources they need to recover and rebuild.”

“We are in the midst of multiple crises in our country: a public health crisis, which is disproportionately impacting people of color in America; and the resulting economic crisis that is causing financial hardship for our small and minority-owned institutions. As we work to secure additional funding for the survival of businesses across the country, I am proud to work with my colleagues on this next step in not only lifting up the hardest hit communities, but ensuring they thrive in the coming months,” said Sen. Harris.

“Since long before they were hit with the recession created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Black families and business owners have struggled to gain access to capital and banking services necessary to build and maintain strong communities and opportunities for growth. The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act would mean billions in resources for the institutions that serve the underfunded and underbanked and provide minority and low income neighborhoods with the resources they need to help them not just weather the storm but thrive over the long-term,” said Sen. Schumer. “If our Republicans colleagues are serious about addressing inequity and getting aid to those who need it most, they should stop focusing on providing immunity to big corporations and make sure our truly small and minority owned businesses, and the institutions that truly seek to serve them, have access to the resources and funding they need to survive and thrive.”

“As Chairman of the House Financial Service Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions, my focus has been squarely on address the inequities faced by unbanked and underbanked communities, and communities of color that continue to be discriminated against to this day, including in banking and financial services. The COVID19 pandemic has laid bare the vulnerability of these communities, and the urgency of addressing the failures of the financial system that leave these communities behind. Achieving a balanced and sustainable economic recovery requires inclusion of, and investments in minority banks, community development financial institutions, and those banks and lenders that reach marginalized communities,” said Rep. Meeks.

A summary of the bill is available here. Text of the bill is available here.

“The compounding effects of COVID-19 will put many low-income and minority neighborhoods at risk of sustained economic damage,” said David Clunie, Executive Director, Black Economic Alliance. “The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act seeks to mitigate economic damage and break down some of the economic barriers Black communities face by strengthening the financial institutions that serve communities of color so they can boost operational capacity and increase lending to Black businesses and lower-income borrowers. By improving access to capital and providing new economic opportunities, this legislation will help Black Americans emerge stronger from the economic downturn that is harming Black communities disproportionately. BEA is proud to have helped shape this billWe are grateful to Senators Schumer, Warner, Harris, and Booker and Rep. Meeks for their leadership, and we look forward to swift passage of this proposal.”

“In this critical moment, our communities are in dire need of being supported and uplifted,” said Derrick Johnson, President and CEO, NAACP. “The disproportionate impact and strain COVID-19 has placed on low-income neighborhoods has been devastating, and the relief Jobs and Neighborhood Act will provide is sorely needed. I am encouraged by the organizations, elected officials and community leaders that continue to step up and fill in the gap amid this turbulent time; and the NAACP will continue to lead in this fight.”  

 “Underserved communities require specific actions to inject resources that impact families and businesses. The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act as Senator Warner proposes must be pointed to these communities as the data proves that there is a disproportionate impact from COVID-19. Therefore, we must itemize the need to repair, restore, and regenerate economic vitality in these communities,” said Kenneth Kelly, Chairman, National Bankers Association.

“The pandemic has illuminated the barriers faced by Black borrowers, business owners and their employees like nothing else in recent memory,” said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League. “The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act is a step toward not only reclaiming the economic ground that has been lost over the last few months, but revitalizing the Black communities that still lag behind because of systemic racism and lack of opportunity. The National Urban League recommends passage of this legislation.”

“This bill provides critical support for  CDFIs and MDIs and is a good step toward expanding the flow of credit into underserved and historically disadvantaged communities. This is especially important for communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the current crisis. This legislation will enable business owners of color to survive and expand operations,” said Ashley Harrington, Director of Federal Advocacy and Senior Counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. “This is a commonsense approach to help local economies, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Senators Warner, Harris, and Booker and Congressman Meeks in further strengthening this legislation and in getting it passed into law.”

“The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs supports the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act. We believe it is a positive step to ensuring that small businesses most impacted by the pandemic will receive funding- through CDFIs and minority lenders- to assist with restoring and rebuilding communities,” said Donna Gambrell, Chair, and Calvin Holmes, Vice-Chair, The African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act has the potential to dramatically increase the flow of responsible investment capital into communities of color. This could be a game changer for community development institutions that are helping underserved communities emerge from the current economic crisis,” said Noel Andrés Poyo, Executive Director, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders.

“This legislation proposed by Sen. Mark Warner (VA) works to provide the needed capital investments in Black communities that will help families in crises due to the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These resources will strengthen businesses, increase employment and provide access to affordable credit for many hardworking residents in our country’s most underserved communities,” said Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman, Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC).

“Prosperity Now has been honored to work with Senators Warner, Booker, Harris and Congressman Meeks on their Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act, a comprehensive plan to capitalize and strengthen Minority-Owned Banks and CDFIs, which are fundamental to our communities and their recovery from COVID-19. A key value of this legislation is that it would also prepare us for and respond to the next economic crisis. We fully endorse this bill,” said Doug Ryan, Senior Fellow, Prosperity Now.

“The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) applauds Senator Warner and the other co-sponsors for recognizing the critical role that CDFIs and Minority Depository Institutions play in providing capital to underserved borrowers and communities, and for providing them with the resources needed to meet the scale of the challenge that is facing the country as we recover from both the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. There is little doubt that the communities served by CDFIs and MDIs are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and this legislation provides a thoughtful means of ensuring that scarce federal resources get to the businesses and residents of those communities,” said Maurice Jones, President and CEO, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act’s support of minority-owned and minority-led lenders is a great step forward for promoting access to capital for underserved communities and the country at large. We look forward to bipartisan passage and working with all stakeholders to ensure its intent is realized,” said Aron Betru, Managing Director, Milken Institute Center for Financial Markets.

“The current global pandemic has made plain that our financial system is stronger and more dynamic when community development financial institutions grow and thrive.  We applaud the work of Senators Warner, Booker, Harris and Congressman Meeks in advancing the Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act to strengthen the efforts of community-based lenders by providing them with additional tools to continue reaching those most deeply affected by this crisis,” said Cathie Mahon, President and CEO, Inclusiv.

“Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by the health and economic effects of the pandemic. More than 40% of black businesses already have shut down. We need urgent investments to change this trajectory, empower a banking system that reaches deep into our minority communities, and help us reach the urgent goal of economic justice. This legislation provides vital support to community and minority-owned banks. Eliminating the racial wealth gap would add more than $1 trillion to our country’s GDP, benefitting all communities. This isn’t a political issue, and I’m hopeful leaders across both parties will come together to drive real change forward, without delay,” said Robert F. Smith, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Vista Equity Partners.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act recognizes the critical role CDFIs play in serving communities struggling against persistent racial and economic inequality.  In particular, the Opportunity Finance Network applauds the inclusion of $1 billion in immediate CDFI Fund grants to strengthen CDFIs to do more in the challenging months ahead,” said Jennifer A. Vasiloff, Chief External Affairs Officer Opportunity Finance Network.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act will inject vital resources into families, businesses and communities that have been hardest hit by COVID and the economic crisis. By prioritizing investments that increase and leverage the capacity of minority lenders and CDFIs, the Act will significantly advance economic opportunity among America’s most underserved people and places,” said Bill Bynum, CEO, Hope Credit Union.

“Over the past four months, we have watched in awe as CDFIs and MDIs across the country have mobilized any and all available resources at their disposal to mitigate the devastating effects of COVID- 19. We have seen their willingness and ability to ensure that the communities they serve weather this crisis, restart and recover quickly, and build back stronger and with more resilience. The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act would provide the necessary capital and operating support so that these community-based lenders can significantly grow their efforts to meet the incredible need across urban, rural, and Native communities,” said Jennifer Pryce, President & CEO, and Frederick “Bart” Harvey, Chairman of the Board, Calvert Impact Capital.

“This initiative is exactly what is needed to help low-income and communities of color rebuild. CDFIs have long been committed to racial and economic justice. This set of programs will provide the tools for CDFIs to help small businesses survive and thrive and communities to recover,” said Jeannine Jacokes, Chief Executive Officer, Community Development Bankers Association.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act will put resources and financial mechanisms into the communities where they can do the most good. Senators Warner, Booker and Harris, and Congressman Meeks, have introduced a measure that, if enacted, will catalyze growth and opportunity for underrepresented groups by unleashing the potential of small businesses in minority communities too often left behind by broader economic growth,” said David Grain, Founder and CEO, Grain Management.

“The Jobs and Neighborhood Investment Act will help get needed funds into communities hardest hit by the crisis, by supporting community development financial institutions and minority depository institutions – those with the on-the-ground expertise and track record to get the job done,” said Professor Michael S. Barr, Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy, Frank Murphy Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, Roy F. and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law, University of Michigan.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) in a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza urging the administration to ease paperwork requirements for small businesses seeking loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The letter, signed by 44 senators, specifically requests that the loan forgiveness application for loans under $250,000 to be no longer than one page in length.

The letter can be found HERE or below: 

 

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza:

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been critical for helping small businesses remain viable and keeping Americans employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we would like to make you aware of a serious problem with the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. We have received feedback from a number of businesses and lenders that the forgiveness application is difficult to understand and to complete. We ask that the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) urgently revise the application so that it is no longer than one page for any loan under $250,000.

When Congress created the PPP, its purpose was clear: get immediate funding into the hands of small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic so their employees could stay on the payroll and maintain benefits and so that businesses could resume normal operations as soon as it was safe to do so. Given the innumerable challenges that small business owners face, PPP loans were designed to be forgiven to prevent small business owners from incurring additional debt, provided employees were kept on payroll.

The text of the CARES Act, which was approved unanimously by the Senate, specified three criteria that the PPP forgiveness application was required to include:

1.     Documentation verifying the number of full-time employees on payroll and their respective pay rates;

2.     Documentation verifying payment of mortgage, lease, and utility payments for which the business owner sought PPP funds; and

3.     A certification that the information presented in the forgiveness application is true and correct.

While the Small Business Administrator was also given the ability to require additional documentation necessary to verify proper use of PPP funds, we believe it is beyond the program’s intent to require the information solicited in the 11-page forgiveness application that the SBA recently released. We appreciate the interest in appropriately auditing the use of government money. However, the loan forgiveness application – which understandably needs more information for loans worth significantly more than $250,000 – is three times longer than the original application for the PPP. Many of our constituents and the financial institutions who processed their PPP loan applications have reported that the existing forgiveness application will be difficult to complete and could cost business owners several thousand dollars in professional tax advice.

The Administration’s intentions to scrutinize PPP loans above $2 million is an appropriate oversight of taxpayer resources. Failing to streamline the loan forgiveness application for loans that are worth a mere fraction of that will not only leave millions of small business owners without the relief that they were promised by Congress, but it will also introduce a needless complication to our nation’s economic recovery.

We look forward to continuing to work with you and the Administration in supporting our country’s small businesses and their employees during this difficult time. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely, 

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and all 47 Senate Democrats in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza calling for urgently needed improvements to streamline and simplify the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness application process to ensure the smallest and most underserved businesses are able to fully take advantage of the program.

Senate Democrats write that small businesses and lenders alike have voiced concerns about the complexity and high cost-burden of the forgiveness application process for PPP loans, particularly for very small and underserved businesses, including microbusinesses, sole proprietorships, rural, and minority-owned small businesses. In addition, the complex process contributes to barriers to entry for new borrowers and could heighten existing hurdles to inclusion, with recent survey data indicating that close to a fifth of minority business owners did not apply for assistance from programs like PPP because they saw the application process to be overly cumbersome and long.

To avoid the chaos that borrowers and lenders experienced in the early weeks of the PPP program, Senate Democrats request that the Administration streamline the forgiveness application now, especially for smaller loans, as many borrowers near the time to apply for forgiveness, and provide adequate resources to ensure a smooth and reliable process.

Senate Democrats’ letter to Secretary and Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza can be found here and below: 

June 12, 2020

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220         

The Honorable Jovita Carranza

Administrator

U.S. Small Business Administration

409 3rd Street SW

Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza:

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) represents the largest small business relief effort in our nation’s history. We were pleased to have passed into law the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, which builds upon and improves this vital program. While these fixes are an important step forward in making PPP work better for small businesses and nonprofits, much work remains to see the program work more efficiently and fairly, particularly for small dollar borrowers. As the program enters its next phase and borrowers begin to seek forgiveness of their loans, there is an immediate need for significant improvements to the forgiveness application process, which is tremendously cumbersome and overly complex, especially for very small businesses, sole proprietors, and underserved borrowers. 

We appreciate your acknowledgment in the recent Senate Small Business Committee hearing that the Administration will be updating the forgiveness form to reflect the critical changes required by the recently passed bill, and that this rewrite is an opportunity to improve the forgiveness process. We want to encourage the Small Business Administration and the Department of Treasury to significantly streamline and simplify the forgiveness process to ensure the smallest and most underserved businesses are able to fully take advantage of the program without having to make inordinate investments of time or limited resources.   

Since the release of the forgiveness form and instructions a few weeks ago, we have heard significant concerns from small businesses and lenders alike about the complexity of the process especially for the smallest businesses. The 11-page form that must be completed to secure forgiveness is especially burdensome, time-consuming, and costly for very small and underserved businesses, including microbusinesses, sole proprietorships, rural, and minority-owned small businesses. We are especially concerned that so many of these very small and underserved businesses will feel compelled to hire accountants and attorneys to complete the forgiveness form in a manner that provides comfort that the loans will be forgiven. This is not just an issue for existing borrowers. It contributes to already existing barriers to entry for new borrowers. For example, recent survey data indicated that close to a fifth of minority business owners did not even try to apply for assistance from programs like PPP that they could have greatly benefited from because they saw the application process to be too difficult and long.  The lengthy and complicated forgiveness form only adds to the already significant hurdles for inclusion of all small businesses in the program.  

While we understand clearly the need to uphold accountability and ensure taxpayer money is properly spent, this process should not be so complex so as to require already struggling small businesses to spend significant resources on services to complete a government form or worry that if they do not, their application will be rejected. To avoid the chaos that borrowers and lenders experienced in the early weeks of this program, we request that the Administration consider streamlining the forgiveness application, especially for smaller loans, and provide adequate resources to ensure a smooth and reliable process that small businesses and nonprofits can have faith in. We also request that before the Administration releases a final, updated form that you engage directly with Congress for input to ensure the form upholds Congressional intent within the CARES Act and follows through on the requests within this letter. 

To achieve these results, we request the Administration consider the following:

  • Create a process for streamlined forgiveness for low-dollar loan amounts. This should include an easy-to-use form that requires a simple attestation on fund use and minimal documentation. This would significantly reduce burdens and provide as much flexibility as possible for very small businesses seeking to access forgiveness. 
  • Issue guidance providing lenders with some form of reasonable safe harbor protection when certifications are made by borrowers in the forgiveness process for low-dollar loan amounts. 
  • Develop a comprehensive suite of approved online tools and resources to help small businesses and nonprofits navigate the forgiveness process, including “how to” videos, online reporting calculators that have the validation of the government, and easy-to-use materials to empower resource partners like the Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and Minority Business Development Agency’s Business Centers in assisting with the completion of the forgiveness form.  
  • Stand up a well-staffed help line for borrowers or lenders to easily reach someone to talk through any challenges they encounter with the forgiveness forms or process.  

The need for the Administration to update and revise the forgiveness form to reflect the changes included in the recently passed bill and create a more simplified process also presents an opportunity to collect additional information from program participants that complete the forgiveness process. We were pleased that the initial form includes an option for applicants to provide demographic data, for example. An updated, streamlined forgiveness form should continue to collect this information, ideally including a demographic reporting section on the first page to ensure as much information as possible is gathered to provide much more clarity on whether PPP assistance has reached communities of color. 

In this public health and economic emergency, we must do all we can to make sure our small businesses have the support and assistance they need to weather the crisis. Small businesses should not need to spend precious resources on an accountant or attorneys to finalize their forgiveness application. The government should simplify the process such that these experts are not necessary or assist in providing this much-needed support. That must be especially the case for our very small and underserved businesses, including in communities of color, that oftentimes lack the resources of other businesses and in many cases, have faced long-standing economic and process fairness challenges even before COVID-19. We have a chance to improve the PPP forgiveness process now for these small businesses to ensure the program works as intended. 

We appreciate your immediate attention to this request and thank you for your continued work to mitigate the impact that this public health crisis is having on the backbone of our economy, our American small businesses. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Doug Jones (D-AL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today introduced the Paycheck Security Act to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses and non-profits until the economic and public health crisis is resolved. 

“Without aggressive action to help workers keep their jobs and businesses stay open, we risk an economic disaster that could take decades to repair,” said Sen. Warner. “Right now nearly 39 million Americans are out of work due to the coronavirus. This is hitting working class folks particularly hard, with 40 percent of all workers making under $40,000 out of work right now. We need to be thinking big and helping people who have lost their jobs. Our proposal will create a national paycheck security program for American workers and help businesses keep their lights on during the darkest days of this crisis. Paycheck security means the federal government would help cover the payroll expenses for rank-and-file workers who have been furloughed or laid off because of the coronavirus, so that families can avert financial calamity and workers can stay connected to employers and health benefits while we get through this crisis.” 

“This unprecedented crisis demands an unprecedented legislative response,” said Sen. Sanders. “We cannot continue to allow tens of millions of Americans to lose their jobs, income, and health insurance during this horrific pandemic.  In order to avoid another Great Depression, Congress must act boldly and aggressively to ensure that every American worker receives their paycheck and health insurance until this crisis is over.  The Paycheck Security Act we are introducing today will provide the urgent financial assistance that working families and small businesses desperately need to pay their bills and make ends meet.”

“As Americans continue to struggle through the health and economic crisis we’re facing, Congress needs to continue to provide relief to workers and small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy. The Paycheck Security Act would direct economic relief to American workers who are suffering by helping employers maintain their payroll,” Sen. Jones said. “Our legislation is exactly the type of big, bold approach that we need to take, given the scale of this crisis. If we can provide the resources that businesses need to tide them over until it is safe to re-open, we can keep more folks safe and help keep workers on the payroll and receiving vital benefits like health insurance. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include this in the next relief package, so that we can continue to help the people in Alabama and throughout our country who need it most.” 

“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.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly 39 million workers have filed for unemployment. More than 20 million people lost their jobs in the month of April alone, the most in a single month on record. An estimated 27 million people have already lost their employer-provided health insurance coverage, and millions more could lose coverage before this crisis is over. The unemployment rate is likely close to 20 percent, and could exceed the depths of the Great Depression in the coming months. 

The pandemic has also devastated small businesses and sole proprietors. A recent study found that more than 100,000 small businesses have already closed permanently as a result of the health and economic crisis.  Another recent surveyshowed that 52 percent of small businesses expect to go out of business within the next six months.  Allowing millions of small and independent businesses to fail will have a devastating impact on the economy and will make the road to recovery longer and harder.

Other countries have avoided the massive job losses seen in the United States primarily because their governments have adopted programs to keep workers on payroll and attached to their employers until this crisis is over. ThePaycheck Security Act would avert mass layoffs, stem catastrophic unemployment levels and prevent irreversible business losses with a refundable tax credit big enough ($90,000 annually per employee) to rehire and pay laid off and furloughed workers and restore their health care benefits. It will also provide small and mid-sized businesses with the funds they need to pay for rent, mortgages, utilities and other operating costs until they can reopen safely and sales begin to recover.

“I am supportive of this strong proposal which builds upon the Paycheck Protection Program and Employee Retention Tax Credit,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“Our country is facing a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis with nearly 1 in 5 Americans unemployed. The response must meet the moment. In addition to significantly expanding payroll support, we must support small businesses that are being crushed and need cash to cover bills and replace inventory when they reopen. Without additional help many small businesses will not survive this crisis and it will take far longer to climb out of this economic ditch. This legislation would keep more employees on payroll and deliver critical help to the smallest, most vulnerable businesses,” said Finance Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).

A more extensive summary of the bill is available here. Bill text can be found here

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ranking Member of the Banking Committee, and fellow Committee members Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Doug Jones (D-AL) in pushing Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell to make sure that minority and low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities get proper access to the critical assistance made available under the CARES Act and the recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPP Enhancement Act).

“As you know, the public health and economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have been particularly disproportionate and severe for LMI and minority communities. Congress took important first steps to help address the acute impact being felt in these communities by passing the PPP Enhancement Act. This legislation includes important set-asides for community and mission oriented lenders,” the Senators wrote in a letter today, urging Mnuchin and Powell to take several steps to make funds available to minority depository institutions (MDIs) and mission-oriented leaders like community development financial institutions (CDFIs).

“MDIs and CDFIs are effective gateways to serving LMI communities and minority households and communities with high concentrations of minority populations. Data indicates that MDIs tend to serve communities in which a higher share of the population lives in LMI census tracts and a higher share of residents are minorities, compared with non-MDI banks,” the Senators noted. “In addition, MDIs tend to originate a greater share of their mortgages for properties in LMI census tracts and to minority borrowers when compared with non-MDI community banks. Compared with non-MDIs, MDIs also originate a greater share of SBA 7(a) loans to borrowers in LMI census tracts and to borrowers in census tracts with higher shares of minority residents. Similarly, CDFIs have demonstrated a strong track record of success in reaching LMI and minority communities. Getting critical dollars into these communities quickly can mean all the difference for these hard-hit communities.”

The full text of today’s letter is available below, and a copy of the letter is available here.

 

April 27, 2020

The Honorable Jerome H. Powell

Chairman

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20551 

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin

Secretary of the Treasury

U.S. Department of the Treasury

1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Chairman Powell and Secretary Mnuchin:

Thank you for your ongoing work to help stabilize the U.S. economy and provide assistance to businesses and workers during the unprecedented health emergency caused by the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  We appreciate your continued efforts to implement the various economic support programs Congress enacted as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  As the Federal Reserve and Treasury move forward with these efforts, we believe it is critical to ensure that minority and low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities get proper access to the critical assistance made available under the CARES Act and the recently enacted Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PPP Enhancement Act).

As you know, the public health and economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak have been particularly disproportionate and severe for LMI and minority communities.  Congress took important first steps to help address the acute impact being felt in these communities by passing the PPP Enhancement Act.  This legislation includes important set-asides for community and mission oriented lenders.  In order to help better achieve the goals of the PPP Enhancement Act and increase the flow of credit directly into minority and LMI communities, we urge you to take the following steps:

(1)         allocate a significant portion of the $30 billion in new funds made available under the PPP Enhancement Act for minority depository institutions (MDIs) and mission-oriented lenders like community development financial institutions (CDFIs); 

(2)         provide these institutions with direct access to the Federal Reserve’s Paycheck Protection Program Lending (PPPL) Facility;

(3)         to the extent practicable, modify the settlement timeline for the PPPL Facility from T+1 to T+0 (or same day settlement) to ensure adequate liquidity for these institutions; and

(4)         indemnify these institutions from any put-backs or invalidation of guarantee from the SBA absent lender fraud.

In addition, we strongly urge you to work through the regional Federal Reserve Banks in order to conduct advance outreach to these institutions with the goal of facilitating uptake of the PPPL Facility.  This includes providing the training and tools necessary to quickly access and utilize these important programs. 

MDIs and CDFIs are effective gateways to serving LMI communities and minority households and communities with high concentrations of minority populations.  Data indicates that MDIs tend to serve communities in which a higher share of the population lives in LMI census tracts and a higher share of residents are minorities, compared with non-MDI banks.  In addition, MDIs tend to originate a greater share of their mortgages for properties in LMI census tracts and to minority borrowers when compared with non-MDI community banks.  Compared with non-MDIs, MDIs also originate a greater share of SBA 7(a) loans to borrowers in LMI census tracts and to borrowers in census tracts with higher shares of minority residents.   Similarly, CDFIs have demonstrated a strong track record of success in reaching LMI and minority communities. 

Getting critical dollars into these communities quickly can mean all the difference for these hard-hit communities.  We appreciate your continued efforts to help sustain the American economy during these challenging times and look forward to working together to help minority and LMI communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thank you for your consideration.   

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) urged Senate leaders to ensure that nonprofit organizations like regional chambers of commerce, state restaurant associations, and groups representing law enforcement are able to receive the financial relief they need during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In a letter, the Senators asked Senate leaders and leaders on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship to expand eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which currently excludes worthy non-profits that are listed under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code.

“We’ve heard from many 501(c)(6)s that have been impacted by COVID-19 and are concerned that they will be unable to carry out their missions,” wrote the Senators. “Many 501(c)(6)s are struggling because of significant declines or uncertainty in their membership dues resulting from COVID-19, and many have had to cancel major events that they rely on for funding. 

They continued, “Throughout this pandemic, Congress has recognized that a whole of society effort is needed to combat COVID-19 and to mitigate its devastating economic impacts. Local chambers, for example, have been valuable partners in helping small business owners get up-to-date information about the assistance programs passed under the CARES Act. Law enforcement associations here in Virginia have provided vital information and training for their members related to COVID-19 as they keep our fellow citizens safe. Education associations have supported teachers and school leaders with webinars and other professional development resources as they abruptly transitioned to serving students through remote instruction.”

Virginia’s significant number of 501(c)(6) organizations include regional chambers of commerce, tourism and hospitality associations, medical associations, certified public accountant societies, state legal societies, state restaurant associations, groups representing law enforcement, among many others. According to some estimates, the Commonwealth has the third highest number of 501(c)(6) employees across the nation.

In their letter, the Senators also highlighted the essential role that many of these organizations are fulfilling during this challenging crisis. Specifically, the Senators requested that this PPP expansion be eligible for 501(c)(6) organizations that do not engage in substantial federal campaign or lobbying activities and can demonstrate economic hardship.

Text of the letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Rubio, and Ranking Member Cardin:

With your leadership, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) to create the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a powerful program to support small businesses and some non-profits as they deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have concerns that PPP’s eligibility criteria have shut out some worthy non-profits that are listed under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code. 

We’ve heard from many 501(c)(6)s that have been impacted by COVID-19 and are concerned that they will be unable to carry out their missions. Many 501(c)(6)s are struggling because of significant declines or uncertainty in their membership dues resulting from COVID-19, and many have had to cancel major events that they rely on for funding. We’re hopeful that as you consider modifications to the PPP, you will expand the program to include 501(c)(6) non-profits that do not engage in substantial federal campaign or lobbying activities and can demonstrate economic hardship. 

501(c)(6) organizations include regional chambers of commerce, tourism and hospitality associations, medical associations, certified public accountant societies, state legal societies, state restaurant associations, groups representing law enforcement, among many others. Many of these 501(c)(6) organizations are filling an essential role on the front lines of our nation’s COVID-19 response, providing their members with services and guidance necessary to help them through this challenging time. 

The Commonwealth of Virginia has a significant number of 501(c)(6) organizations and Virginians employed by them. According to some estimates, Virginia has the third most 501(c)(6) employees in the country. We’re proud of the work these Virginians do to support their communities and local businesses and do not believe they should be excluded from the PPP, which might be the deciding factor in whether their organization can keep its doors open. 

Throughout this pandemic, Congress has recognized that a whole of society effort is needed to combat COVID-19 and to mitigate its devastating economic impacts. Local chambers, for example, have been valuable partners in helping small business owners get up-to-date information about the assistance programs passed under the CARES Act. Law enforcement associations here in Virginia have provided vital information and training for their members related to COVID-19 as they keep our fellow citizens safe. Education associations have supported teachers and school leaders with webinars and other professional development resources as they abruptly transitioned to serving students through remote instruction.

Thank you for taking this important consideration into account as you work to help our economy and communities cope with the economic impacts of COVID-19. We look forward to continuing our work together as we pursue bipartisan approaches to managing and overcoming this crisis. 

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Virginia Beach, VA - Yesterday, Congresswoman Elaine Luria and Senator Mark Warner joined a tele-townhall hosted by the Eastern Shore Chambers of Commerce (ESCC). During the town hall, both elected officials and members of the Chambers of Commerce fielded questions from constituents regarding the Coronavirus epidemic and its impact on the local economy, specifically looking at tourism, seasonal businesses, and those in retirement.  

“With a booming tourism industry that runs on a seasonal schedule, many constituents had questions about the stay-at-home order what their government is doing to help them,” said Congresswoman Elaine Luria. “I appreciated this opportunity to discuss how to the CARES Act will provide support to the tourism industry and small businesses. I was thankful to be joined by Senator Warner as we learn how to best serve the Commonwealth.” 

“I want to thank the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Shore Tourism Council for hosting us on a call today so that we could hear directly from small businesses and non-profits struggling with the economic downturn in light of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Senator Mark R. Warner. “I was grateful for the opportunity to share a little more about the relief provisions included in the CARES Act, and to listen to leaders in Eastern Shore about what Congress must do next to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.” 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the SIMPLE Plan Modernization Act, a bipartisan bill to provide small business employers and employees greater flexibility and access to the popular SIMPLE plans as an option for retirement savings. The legislation has the backing of the AARP.  

Congress established SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) retirement plans in the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 to encourage small businesses to provide their employees with retirement plans. However, retirement plans among small employers continue to be less commonly offered than those provided by medium and large employers. While these smaller businesses had access to tax-favored retirement savings plans, including traditional 401(k)s, those plans are more expensive to administer.

“The changing nature of work has redefined the employee-employer dynamic, making it harder for small businesses to offer traditional safety net protections for workers,” said Sen. Warner. “We should make it easier for small business owners and their employees to begin saving for their retirement. This legislation is one step towards helping the American workforce prepare for the future.”

“In my home state of Maine, the vast majority of businesses are eligible to sign their employees up for SIMPLE Plans.  Financial advisors from Presque Isle to Portland have shared their concerns that neither employees nor their employers are in a good position to save for retirement,” said Sen. Collins. “We must give small businesses and employees a better opportunity to save for retirement, and this legislation will provide such an opportunity.”

Businesses with 100 or fewer employees may currently create SIMPLE retirement savings accounts for their employees, so long as the employers do not have another employer-sponsored retirement plan.

The proposed legislation would increase the contribution limit for SIMPLE plans. Increasing the limit would achieve two basic goals: 1) Motivate more small business employers to offer a retirement savings benefit to their employees and 2) Allow small business employees to save even more each year on a tax-deferred basis. 

The SIMPLE Plan Modernization Act would: 

  1. Raise the contribution limit for SIMPLE plans from $12,500 to $15,500 (halfway between current SIMPLE plans and traditional 401(k)s) for the smallest businesses (1 to 25 employees), with a corresponding increase in the catch-up limit from $3,000 to $4,500.
  2. Give businesses with 26 to 100 employees the option of the higher contribution limits, and, in order to continue to encourage them to transition to 401(k)s when they can do so, increase their SIMPLE plan mandatory employer contribution requirements by one percentage point if they elect the higher limits. 
  3. Allow for a reasonable transition period for employers who hire additional employees above 25.
  4. Make the limit increases unavailable if the employer has had another defined contribution plan within the past three years (to encourage businesses that already have qualified plans to retain them).
  5. Modernize SIMPLE plan form filing requirements and modify the transition rules from SIMPLE plans to traditional plans to facilitate and encourage such transitions.
  6. Direct Treasury to study the use of SIMPLE plans and report to Congress on such use, along with any recommendations.

Sen. Warner has been a leader in finding solutions to the 21st century generational and technological changes that have led to perhaps the most dramatic transformation in the American economy in decades. He has introduced legislation that encourages employers to invest more in quality skills training for their workers. In addition, he has proposed a bill that would test-drive programs that provide contingent workers with “portable benefits” that have many of the social insurance protections typically offered to workers through traditional full-time employment.

 

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued a report that for the first time in years provided a snapshot of the contingent and alternative worker population.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Contingent Worker and Alternative Work Arrangement Supplement (CWS) to the Current Population Survey (CPS)  is considered the gold standard of measuring who is doing what in the American workforce, but data about the size and scope of the contingent workforce had not been collected since 2005 after its funding was eliminated. Since then, the federal government had struggled to keep up with an explosion in new technology and changes to the nature of work that have increased the range of opportunities for workers to pursue flexible arrangements. In the Senate, Sen. Warner led the charge in restoring funding to help collect this data and requesting the Department of Labor to relaunch the survey that culminated in this report.

 “The federal government and the general public have lacked for many years reliable data to help paint a clear picture of our contingent workforce and their future. Without this crucial information, policymakers and experts are in the dark about the size and needs of this population, making it harder to find common ground on solutions that will help them navigate our intricate labor market. For this reason, I urged the federal government to re-establish these best practices and issue this report, which will help provide us with a direct understanding of what this part of our workforce looks like.

“Today’s news show that contingent workers play a significant role in our economy, with tens of millions of Americans - more than one in ten workers - identified as independent contractors, temps, and contract-firm workers. An while the data shows that there’s been a downward shift in the number of people who rely on contingent work as their main job, we still don’t know how many of them do so in order to supplement their income. Without this crucial piece of data, it will be tough for us to make an accurate assessment of the best way to help this dynamic segment of workers receive more training and resources, access a system of portable benefits they can carry from job to job, and file their taxes and claim deductions and credits. I will continue pushing the federal government and outside experts to fill-in these gaps and provide a full picture of this part of our workforce, and expect to seek more information on the tax challenges of these workers in the near future.”    

For years, Sen. Warner has been urging the federal government to collect better, more complete data on the number and type of workers who are part of the contingent workforce economy. Estimates of the contingent labor force range from a few percentage points to nearly a third of the American labor force engaging in some type of independent work arrangement. 

Last year, Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to test and evaluate innovative portable-benefits models for independent workers. He is also the author of bipartisan legislation aimed at increasing the availability of job training to lower- and moderate-income workers, in an effort to stay on top of the rapidly changing technology and skills requirements for today’s workforce.

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Banking Committee, released the following statement after the Senate voted 67-31 to pass S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act:  

“The bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act that the Senate passed today will provide meaningful relief to Main Street. It will roll back unnecessary and burdensome regulations on credit unions and small community banks while ensuring that larger banks remain subject to the rules I helped put in place after the financial crisis. This bill is the result of years of tough negotiations between Democrats and Republicans and will help small lenders provide mortgages and other credit to hardworking Virginians and small businesses. While this bill does not include everything Democrats wanted nor everything Republicans wanted, I’m proud of my colleagues for putting differences aside, finding common ground, and passing this bipartisan legislation. The House of Representatives should move swiftly to take up and pass this sensible, bipartisan bill.”

 

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), a member of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, issued the below statement after the Senate voted along party lines 51-48 to approve the budget-busting GOP plan to cut taxes for corporations and the richest Americans:

“This is the worst piece of legislation we have passed since I arrived in the Senate.”

Nonpartisan analyses released yesterday confirm the final Trump-Republican tax bill will hike taxes on millions of middle-class Americans in order to pay for massive cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. By 2027, under the Trump-Republican tax bill, families earning under $75,000 would pay more in taxes than they do today – while the top 1 percent would enjoy the largest tax breaks, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).

And the Tax Policy Center estimated that 53 percent of American households will face tax hikes in 2027 while the top 0.1 percent of taxpayers will get an average tax cut of nearly $200,000. The top one percent of taxpayers are expected to receive 83 percent of tax benefits.  

On top of this, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that the true cost of the final, unpaid-for GOP tax bill is roughly $2.5 trillion, adding to our $20 trillion national debt. 

The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass and be sent to the President for his signature without a single Democratic vote.

 

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WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the bipartisan Commonsense Reporting Act of 2017 to streamline and modernize employer reporting requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This legislation would strike a balance between ensuring the Treasury Department has the necessary data to determine availability of affordable coverage, while cutting down on unnecessary paperwork and administrative costs for businesses.

The ACA requires employers and insurers to report information about health insurance coverage to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at the end of the tax year. The legislation directs the Treasury Department to implement an alternative, prospective reporting system that is more workable and less burdensome for employers than current regulations.

“This legislation couples important data collection with the flexibility and efficiency employers need to continue implementing the law,” said Sen. Warner. “It’s time to find common ground with serious legislative efforts that provide more affordable, accessible, and quality health care to all Americans, regardless of where they purchase their coverage. Americans deserve better – hopefully this is the first step of many bipartisan solutions.” 

“I have heard from hundreds of employers in Ohio that have spent hundreds of administrative hours attempting to comply with the reporting requirements in the Affordable Care Act. This added time and resources has not improved the quality of health insurance employers offered but only further discouraged employers from offering health insurance and hiring more workers. This bipartisan bill will help streamline the reporting process by allowing employers to report information to the IRS prospectively, easing the burden for employers and employees,” said Sen. Portman.

The Commonsense Reporting Act streamlines this process by establishing a voluntarily system which would allow employers to report pertinent information before open enrollment begins, to minimize the administrative burden at the back-end, and limit the collection of unneeded information.

The Commonsense Reporting Act has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Retail Industry Leaders Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association, American Rental Association, American Staffing Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Association of Health Underwriters, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Business Group on Health, National Federation of Independent Business, National Grocers Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation, NATSO for America’s Truck and Travel Stops.

A summary of this legislation can be found here. The full text is also available here

 

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Warner & Kaine Reintroduce Small Business Legislation, The Marketplace Fairness Act

"Small businesses are being forced to compete on an uneven playing field. Local, brick-and-mortar business collect sales taxes from their customers – but many large, online vendors do not."

Apr 28 2017

"Small businesses are being forced to compete on an uneven playing field. Local, brick-and-mortar business collect sales taxes from their customers – but many large, online vendors do not."