On Call With Walsh, Sen. Warren Walks Small Biz Through New Loan Options

BOSTON (State House News Service) — With a $2 trillion stimulus package one House vote away from President Donald Trump's desk, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Thursday told small business owners that the coronavirus relief bill would make millions available to them, mostly through loans, as they try to weather the shutdown of economic life nationwide.

"This is all designed to get money into people's hands now," Warren said.

The state's senior senator participated in a conference call with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Thursday afternoon to walk Boston area business through the pots of money available to them through the stimulus bill.

The Senate voted unanimously for the package late Wednesday night, and Warren said the House would vote on the bill Friday, and is not expected to make any changes. Trump has indicated he will sign the bill when it gets to him.

"My thoughts are with all of you and your families during this difficult time. I know this crisis put a lot of pressure on people personally," Warren said.

Though Warren said she opposed the loan fund for large corporations in the bill, she voted for the package after fighting for additional oversight.

"I don't believe that the price of getting help to small businesses and families should be a $450 billion slush fund for corporations but it was part of what the Republicans demanded for getting this stimulus package done," Warren said. "I tried to get as much oversight into that part of the package as possible."

The bill makes money available to small business and non-profits in two major ways, Warren said.

The first way is through a $10 billion emergency grant fund administered by the Small Business Administration. Grants of up to $10,000 will be available to any business that applies for an economic injury disaster loan through the SBA, Warren said. Those are loans of up to $2 million for businesses of any size, and the Treasury is making most banks and lenders authorized SBA lenders to process those applications.

The money can be used to maintain payroll, provide sick leave or cover obligations like debt, rent or mortgages, and would not need to be repaid if the loan application is ultimately denied. Warren said the goal is provide the grant within three days of a loan application being processed.

Another $17 billion has been made available for standard SBA borrowing, and applicants who secure one of those loans in the six months after the bill is signed will have no payments due for six months.

The second major pool of funding in the stimulus bill, Warren said, is a $350 billion stimulus fund for no-fee loans to small businesses of up to $10 million. Warren said employers can apply for 125 percent of whatever their payroll would be for eight weeks, with principal and interest payments deferred for up to a year.

Warren said that for business that are able to rehire employees and maintain a payroll similar to early February, the loans can be waived either in part or in their entirety. The loans will be administered directly by banks, and underwriting will be waived, she said. The loans will be awarded based on a company's ability to prove it was a viable business in early February.

"The idea here is to try to get help to all kinds of small businesses. Some of them are open and operational right now, some are operational in only a skeleton manner and some are entirely closed," Warren said. "The hope is the money will both help cushion during this time of crisis and that these small businesses survive so that they're there to hire people and help us create a stronger recovery," Warren said.

The senator also walked the business leaders through the expansion of unemployment benefit eligibility to cover for-profit and non-profit businesses whether they participate in their state's unemployment insurance system or not, as well as coverage for part-time workers, "gig workers," and the self-employed.

An additional $600 would be added under the bill on top of whatever the state pays in unemployment benefits, and workers who are furloughed, but remain on their company's health insurance would also become eligible.

"In Massachusetts, that means 100 percent income replacement for the average worker," Warren said. "The expansion in who's covered is designed to cover pretty much everyone who was out there working in one form or another when this crisis hit."

Walsh thanked Warren and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey for their work on the bill, which he said would have an impact in Boston to help businesses recover.

"We know this has been an incredibly difficult time. It's been two and half weeks. It feels like it's been two and half years...," Walsh said.

"We need to be patient, as well, as a society. We are very early in this coronavirus fight. This is going to go on for quite a bit of time," the mayor said.

by Matt Murphy, State House News Service

WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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