PA Chamber applauds federal COVID relief package, inclusion of $284B for struggling businesses

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PA Chamber President Gene Barr applauded Congress this week for the passage of federal COVID-19 relief legislation, which includes approximately $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program.

“As the pandemic rages on, the support for small businesses and nonprofits, as well as additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, comes at a critical juncture,” Barr said. “For months, the economy has suffered as states have implemented mitigation orders in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.”

The pandemic relief package, also known as the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, will provide roughly $900 billion in national and international support. It specifically outlined several employment assistance legislation that will continue the Paycheck Protection Program, allow for additional eligible expenses through the program, simplify the application process for loans under $150,000, and create the “PPP second draw” loan for smaller and harder-hit businesses.

“Across the Commonwealth, businesses have had to spend significant resources in order to comply with state and CDC-issued health guidelines,” Barr said. “Many of those that have been able to survive this challenging environment thus far are currently hanging on by a thread.  This is especially true for the restaurant industry, given Governor Wolf’s most recent closure orders that prohibit indoor dining.  This relief package provides much-needed aid to businesses, helping to keep the economy going.”

However, Barr did continue, stating that he was disappointed at the lack of targeted COVID-19 liability protections included within the final relief agreement, which he noted held up the overall relief package throughout the fall. He states that those against the protections are siding with personal injury lawyers over small businesses, non-profits, child care providers, and the education and medical communities.

“This allegiance to protecting the trial bar and refusal to consider limited liability protections, ultimately resulted in a lack of relief funding for state and local governments,” Barr said. “As we have noted since the pandemic first made its way to Pennsylvania, safe harbor protections are a critical component to both the state’s and nation’s economic recovery efforts.  Those good actors that are following government health guidelines shouldn’t have to face the threat of unwarranted lawsuits as they work to overcome so many other financial hurdles during this pandemic. We encourage lawmakers at the state and federal level to take up this issue as soon as possible in the upcoming legislative session.”