Throughout the current economic and public health crisis, Arkansans have done what we do best, which is facing adversity with grace and tenacity. Our resiliency has been aided by the leadership of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and federal government resources.
On March 27, I voted to save jobs across Arkansas and America by supporting the CARES Act. This unprecedented legislation and follow-up legislation have injected over $2.5 trillion into the U.S. economy including into the hands of hardworking families and small businesses in central
Arkansas. One of the cornerstones of our effort was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The PPP is designed to provide loans to small businesses to keep their workers on payroll. The loans are forgivable as long as the borrower meets certain conditions for how the funds are spent. They are also 100% federally guaranteed, meaning that if a borrower defaults on the loan, the lender will be made whole by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
In central Arkansas, we have many success stories. A few examples include:
- Burrito Day Café – local Searcy restaurant that saved 18 jobs;
- Methodist Family Health – a statewide provider of psychiatric and behavioral healthcare to Arkansas children that saved 400 jobs;
- River City Ministry – a faith-based, non-profit in North Little Rock that was able to continue providing food to more than 1,000 Arkansans each week;
- Thompson Driving School – a Little Rock private drivers education school that saved 14 jobs; and
- Tokusen USA – a Conway steel tire cord manufacturer that saved 300 jobs and sustained health insurance for employees and their families.
The CARES Act provided $350 billion for the PPP, but this was quickly depleted with applications no longer being accepted just 13 days after the program’s start. Understanding how vital this program was to small businesses, with the support of the president, Congress successfully provided an additional $310 billion in PPP funding on April 24. As of June 6, the PPP had successfully lent more than $510 billion across 4.5 million loans over the two rounds of funding. Of those, 40,920 small businesses in Arkansas received more than $3.2 billion in critical financial support.
I commend our banks – especially community banks that have done the bulk of this lending – who have stepped in to serve as the conduit for this funding. Having spoken with our lenders across the state and the nation, I know they have been working tirelessly to ensure their customers have the access to these lifelines. One bank in Arkansas that has underwritten over 15,000 loans for a total loan volume of $1.2 billion told me that, 30% of those loans were to customers who previously did not have a relationship with the bank. That is countless Arkansas families who have been sustained as a result of this bank’s accepting the call. It’s examples like these that remind me of the outstanding community we have in this state and why I am honored to represent our citizens in the People’s House.
Of course, with most government-run initiatives, there is always room for improvement. I have heard from constituents about certain shortcomings of the PPP, namely as it relates to how the funds can be spent and how the forgiveness will be determined. In response, Congress passed with my support
legislation to address some of these concerns, which the president swiftly signed into law.
Additionally, with my good friend, Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky, I led a letter to the Treasury and the SBA requesting a simpler loan forgiveness application for loans under $350,000. For our smaller Arkansas businesses, this is a critical accommodation that will ease the burden of paperwork and filings that will enable them to focus on sustaining their businesses and Arkansas jobs.
It’s the dedicated work of our local banking community combined with the resilience of our small businesses that make this state great. I know these are challenging times, but as evidenced by examples above, I know together we will overcome the current public health threat emerge stronger. It’s important that Congress remain nimble and adaptable as we continue to implement new initiatives, like we have with the PPP. I hope you will reach out to my office at Hill.House.Gov when I can be of assistance.
Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, represents the Second District of Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the author.