U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, says he expects more money to support the quickly evaporating COVID-19 subsidy programs for small businesses passed by Congress and he believes that governors should control a targeted approach to reopening their economies.
Hill was appointed late last week to the President’s Task Force on Reopening the Economy. He is the only Congressman from Arkansas on the panel along with both of Arkansas’ U.S. Senators.
In a Talk Business & Politics interview, he said he thinks the governors should largely be in charge of reopening their local economies.
“…Some states that maybe have a lower infection rate, good CDC [Centers for Disease Control] compliance, less density may have more options on what kind of businesses they could open sooner,” Hill said. “I do think you’ll find a lot of geographic diversity in opening the economy back up, and I don’t think it’ll turn on a dime in every industry, in every instance, in every geography.”
The Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which was passed by Congress to help support payrolls for companies impacted by the coronavirus shutdown of the economy, has seen much more requests for funding than the initial $350 billion budgeted. Hill said he expects a sizable addition to funding to help more businesses. He complained that Democrats, who have called for additional needs such as money for struggling hospitals, should let a clean funding bill move forward.
“This is why Mitch McConnell last Thursday attempted to get a clean $250 billion increase in the PPP program, which is the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. It was blocked by Democrats in the Senate asking for some additional non-related items, and that’s where it stands,” he said. “It’s very disappointing, I think, to our small businesses, to our community banks that have worked so hard over the last 13 days, and frustrating to those of us in Congress to know that the PPP program is one of the most successful things that we’ve done here for economic preservation.”
Hill said he’s fielding a lot complaints about the EIDL [Economic Injury Disaster Loan] program, which is run by the U.S. Small Business Administration and has been slower to respond to its overwhelming requests.
“I think this a real failing for the SBA, the Small Business Administration. They haven’t really kept Congress in the loop on this. We appropriated $17 billion for that emergency loan program. That’s a program for small businesses to apply directly to the SBA, supports things beyond payroll, so it’s a good program. It is slow, and it’s always slow after a tornado or a hurricane. But as you say, it’s been radio silent,” Hills said.
“This morning I was told there had been 380 billion [dollars worth of] applications for the EIDL program. So, I texted my friend Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, saying, ‘When you talk to Mitch McConnell, talk about EIDL needs in addition to the PPP program.'”
You can watch Rep. Hill’s full interview in the video below.