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Greenville Business Magazine

More business aid on the way, Lindsey Graham says

Apr 21, 2020 11:31AM ● By David Dykes
By David Dykes

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Monday, April 20, he expected the Senate to vote to replenish a crucial lifeline to small businesses desperately trying to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a call arranged by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Graham acknowledged that the No. 1 issue on most people’s minds revolves around Congress putting more money into the government’s Paycheck Protection Program to keep small firms afloat.

“I think we will. I think it’ll be today or tomorrow,” Graham told an estimated 350 business owners and officials.

Under the program, loans to small businesses will be forgiven if they allocate most of their money to keeping employees on payrolls.

Graham, however, said there have been glitches in the system. Some firms with lots of liquidity have borrowed money but “it was never meant for that,” he said.

“It was really meant for people who had to shut their business down because of mitigation measures,” Graham said. “The goal is to keep your employees on your payroll so that when it’s time to reopen business, you’ll be ready to go.”

He said there needs to be more emphasis on directing loan money to smaller, community banks and credit unions. “Some of the big banks were giving priority to customers with bigger accounts who had been around a long time,” Graham said.

Another problem is that the unemployed can make $23 an hour when they combine state unemployment benefits with a $600 weekly federal jobless payment, Graham said. That doesn’t fare well with restaurants, bars or hotels paying $16 or $17 an hour, he said.

“I want to make people whole,” not give them a pay raise with unemployment benefits, Graham said.

He said he’s willing to allow nonessential businesses to reopen gradually to get the economy moving again but governors must be on guard against a virus resurgence.

Graham agrees with President Trump’s actions to lock down the U.S. economy, saying if he hadn’t 1 million to 2 million Americans, at least, would have died.

The key going forward is testing, Graham said, citing BMW as an example.

For the German automaker to reopen an assembly line like that in its Spartanburg County plant, the company must have the ability to test most of its employees, he said.

“We’re not there yet,” Graham said. “Hopefully, in the next months or so we could have testing at a level that will allow manufacturers and people that work in confined spaces to do mass testing on their employees, on their workforce on site, and get the results back in a matter of minutes.”   

He added, “I’ve never seen anything like it. The economy was doing great until the virus hit.”

Other key points from his call included:
  • Foreign-owned companies do qualify for PPP.
  • Drug therapy is going to be the key to actually beating COVID-19. Graham believes the nation needs both COVID-19 tests and antibody tests as well as a vaccine before the pandemic can be conquered.