ATLANTA – The federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has given the economy a critical boost by letting financially struggling small businesses keep their employees, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., said Tuesday.
But presidential politics is getting in the way of attempts to deliver more federal aid to small businesses, Perdue told an online audience of Georgia business and political leaders at the annual Congressional Luncheon sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
“In the middle of a presidential year, I’m hopeful but not optimistic a deal will get done,” he said.
Perdue said the PPP – part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Congress passed back in March – saved about 1.5 million jobs in Georgia through loans to small businesses averaging $103,000.
Nationally, about 50 million Americans remained on payrolls because of the legislation, added Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who appeared on the chamber program as Perdue’s guest. The bill played a major role in reducing U.S. unemployment from a peak of 15% in April to 10.2% last month, Scott said.
“The PPP is like a friend showing up when you’re down,” he said. “Had we not stabilized those businesses, we would have lost those 50 million jobs.”
But Perdue said the current effort to put together another aid package in response to various impacts of COVID-19 is in trouble, with majority Democrats in the U.S. House, the Republican majority in the Senate and the Trump administration a long way from reaching agreement.
For his part, Perdue is trying to get legislation he introduced last month to help schools affected by COVID-19 included in the next coronavirus relief package. Legislation being offered by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seeks about $104 billion for schools, $74 billion for K-12 and $30 billion for colleges and universities.
“We don’t want our children to lose six months or a year in educational progress,” he said.
Perdue said the need to reopen schools safely during a pandemic is particularly critical for at-risk students on the edge of failing and for children who live in rural communities without broadband access.
As he stated in a recent campaign ad, Perdue also called for policing reforms that while stopping short of de-funding police agencies, would include increasing the recruitment of minority officers, stepping up de-escalation training and improving databases used to track complaints of abuse.
“People want the law to be enforced,” Perdue said. “But we also have to have confidence that our police officers are one of us.”
Police reform legislation Scott is sponsoring in the Senate is another victim of the political polarization rampant in an election year. Scott said some House Democrats have expressed a willingness to work with him on the bill, but the effort has been sidetracked in the Senate.
The congressional luncheon, held every August in Macon, was conducted virtually for the first time. The program concluded with a video tribute to the late Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, a youth leader during the Civil Rights Era, who died last month at the age of 80.