Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks Laying Out How The American Rescue Plan Provides A Lifeline Of Support To Our Small Businesses

March 16, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the broad impact of the American Rescue Plan, laying out in detail the benefits for small businesses upended by the COVID pandemic. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

This morning I want to continue the theme of highlighting aspects of the American Rescue Plan that have not received enough attention.

We have heard a lot about the progress that we’ve made on vaccines, we are well on the path – well on the path – to getting Americans vaccinated.

And checks have gone out the door: I was on a call with people from central Brooklyn— Bed-Stuy, and Brownsville—last night, and many had already received their checks, very much needed, very much welcomed.

As President Biden announced: we’ve had 100 million shots in people’s arms and 100 million checks in people’s pockets. Let’s say that again. That sounds good to me, Mr. President: 100 million shots in people’s arms and 100 million checks in people’s pockets. Democrats are delivering what we promised.  

Now, we’ve heard a lot about how the American Rescue Plan will help Americans who need it the most. The 20% of Americans at the lowest levels of income will receive the highest levels of support. It’s about time. We had the mirror-image of that when our Republican colleagues ran the Senate, where the top 1% did the best and the bottom 20% were totally ignored. That’s backwards. God bless the people who are in the top 1%, but they don’t need the help. It’s the people struggling to feed their families, pay the rent, help the kids in school that need the help, and we’re doing it. First time in a while.

Experts predict that child poverty could be cut in half. Meanwhile the top 1% of Americans will see an income boost of 0%. As I said, God bless them, but they’re doing fine already. They’re doing fine already.

And we’ve heard a lot about how the American Rescue Plan will prime the American economy to come roaring back. Economists are already projecting that economic growth could double as a result of the American Rescue Plan. When over 85% of American households get some checks and the money goes out, it starts revitalizing our economy: people shop in the stores, eat at the restaurants, even begin to travel, see their relatives maybe for the first time, if people are vaccinated. Wow, this is great news. This is great news. So I think America is turning the corner and I think the attitude of Americans is turning the corner as well. People now see a brighter future for this country and their regions.

So today, though, as I said, there's so much in this bill, but every day I want to focus on something else that may not be focused upon. Since the Senate is set to vote on the confirmation of the new SBA Administrator, today is a good opportunity to expand on just how the American Rescue Plan will help our nation’s 30 million small businesses.

Small businesses have been some of the hardest-hit entities by the pandemic. Early in the crisis, 80%, four out of five small businesses reported having to close their doors at one point. Just the other day I heard of a local New York business owner who was forced to close up shop after surviving most of the pandemic. You could hear the pain in their voice. They poured their entire soul into this business.

I know. This hits home for me.

My dad was a small businessman. He struggled. He had a little exterminating business all through my growing years, from the day I was born until the day I left the house.

My brother and sister and I still have vivid memories of dad pacing the floor Sunday nights at 2:00 a.m. because he hated going to work Monday morning. So many challenges, so much thrown at him, and not much he could do about it. He was wondering how he would actually provide for his family.

Now, praise God, he retired at around 70. He's now 97. He's been a happy man for these last 27 years. God is good. As you know, Mr. President, better than most of us. But he struggled.

So when I hear about the anguish of small business people, I'll never forget I would work there sometimes weekends, summers. And he sent me out to collect checks from a landlord who had three or four buildings, smaller buildings where my dad's company had done the exterminating. The guy hadn't paid for six months. And I traveled—took me about an hour, hour and a half on to buses to go to this man's door. I knocked. He opened the door. I said, you know, I'm Chuck Schumer, the son of Abe Schumer, Century Exterminating. You owe us six months. We've been doing a good job exterminating your house.

You know what he said to me? Your dad is a small businessman. He can't afford a lawyer. He can't afford anything to go after me. I'm not paying.

The anguish that small business people face. So we need to help them. We need to help them.

And that’s one of the many reasons I’m so proud of the American Rescue Plan, because it provides tens of billions of dollars in support for small businesses that have suffered during the pandemic.

The American Rescue Plan is nothing short of a lifeline for Main Street businesses from one end of the country to the other: main street businesses in rural America, main street businesses in suburban America, main street businesses in urban America and in our inner cities. It's a lifeline.

For starters, the American Rescue Plan provides $30 billion for restaurants and bars through the Restaurants Act, which was the first bipartisan amendment added to the bill, sponsored by Senators Sinema and Wicker.

The American Rescue Plan also includes more than a billion dollars in additional support for our nations small theatres and venues – adding to a grant program I helped create in December called the Save our Stages Act. These independent restaurants, art venues, places like that are the hardest hit because that’s where people—churches—that’s where people gather. When they're not gathering, there's no income, whether it be the money they pay the small business, the check they pay at the restaurant, or the money they leave in the collection plate when they're not there in our religious institutions. So this is a good thing.

And I want to say one more thing about Save our Stages: the American Rescue Plan not only includes more money for Save our Stages, it includes an amendment I authored to allow venue owners to apply for aid through Save our Stages without losing eligibility for a traditional small business grant through the PPP.

So that's a change that our art institutions, our independent venues, our theaters should know: they can both get PPP and Save our Stages funding.

These venues—the small businesses of many types, the nonprofits—they are the lifeblood of so many communities in New York. They were the first to close and likely will be the last to open. I’m hopeful that the support we passed in the American Rescue Plan will help our small businesses, our theatres and our music venues, our restaurants, to hold on until we can all gather safely once again.

That’s not all.

The American Rescue Plan provides $15 billion in flexible, targeted grants to help small businesses that have had a hard time accessing relief over the last 12 months, including most non-profits and churches. Up to 90% of minority-owned small businesses will qualify for this funding, closing the racial gap and keeping local economies from deteriorating further.

We invest $10 billion in state, local and tribal small business financing programs.

We expanded the Employee Retention Tax Credit, so that businesses of any size can more easily keep their workers on the payroll, because this provision doesn’t have an employee number limit.

And finally, we bolstered and expanded the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to include more nonprofits including labor and agricultural organizations who unfortunately, in December, our Republican colleagues wouldn’t let in.

In a nutshell: the American Rescue Plan provides a colossal boost for our nation’s small businesses and will make sure that all of them—not just those with the right connections—can access relief.

It will help millions of Americans keep their jobs, retain their incomes, and support their families during this recovery.

Now, we know many of these businesses are not out of the woods yet.

There is still some time until our country can fully open up; until families can eat inside at their favorite restaurant or colleagues can meet at a bar for happy hour; until we can see one of our favorite performers put on a concert.

But already we’re seeing signs of hope. As a Washington Post headline announced recently: “Companies are scaling back layoffs because of [the American Rescue Plan].”

Let me say that again, proudly and happily: companies are scaling back layoffs because of the American Rescue Plan.

And the Senate, I assure the American people, is going to keep working to make sure that the support for our businesses remains intact over the next few months.