WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), along with his colleagues on the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act — a comprehensive package of measures that would provide support to the hardest-hit, most vulnerable small businesses and industries, such as food services, hospitality, and live venues. The bill is nearly identical to the small business provisions of HEROES 2.0, which passed the House of Representatives on October 1.

The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Angus King (I-Maine), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

“Small businesses and nonprofits and their employees are working tirelessly to keep their workplaces going. The challenges facing restaurants, event venues, childcare providers, hotels, fitness centers, and so many other Main Street businesses in Delaware and across the country call for bold and sweeping assistance from the federal government,” Senator Coons said. “That’s why I’m proud to introduce the HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act. The bill not only offers a second round of PPP loans to hard-hit businesses, as we initially called for in June, but it also includes a vital extension of the SBA debt relief program, and new grant funding with a focus on restaurants, event venues, and the smallest, hardest-hit businesses across all sectors, as well as those owned by women and people of color. This is the bill we need to get Main Street through this pandemic.”

“More than 12 million Americans remain unemployed, hundreds of thousands are still being laid off weekly, and businesses are closing every day,” Senator Cardin said. “The HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act meets the scale of the need in our country—providing grants, affordable long-term capital, and small business debt relief to the most vulnerable and hardest-hit small businesses and sectors. COVID-19 cases are rising every day. Senate Republicans’ proposal to only reinstate eight weeks of PPP is not enough to get small businesses and their employees through the pandemic.”

“PPP and EIDL have been lifelines that have kept small businesses across the country from going under but many of these businesses are still struggling and need further help,” said Senator Shaheen. “Revenues are still at unsustainable lows and with infection rates increasing in many communities, for many businesses a second PPP loan or a new EIDL grant can’t come soon enough. This legislation prioritizes smaller businesses, particularly those in hardest hit industries, and puts in place protections to make sure this money goes to businesses that are truly hurting, not well-connected corporations. Every effort must be made to make sure federal relief reaches small businesses that need help the most and this legislation would be a big step toward that goal.”

“The strength of our economy and country’s small businesses depends on our ability to curb the coronavirus. That’s why Senate Democrats have proposed for months comprehensive legislation that includes money for testing and contact tracing, relief to Americans who’ve lost their jobs, aid to help small businesses stay afloat, financial resources so state and local governments can save hundreds of thousands of jobs, continue to offer essential services for their communities, and revive their local economies, and much more,” said Leader Schumer. “Unfortunately, Senate Republicans continue to push an inadequate bill that doesn’t do nearly enough to help workers and families, and that lacks the scale of assistance required to help the hardest-hit small businesses and industries, including those in underserved and underbanked communities. Senate Democrats are united behind the Heroes Small Business Lifeline Act, to provide over $370 billion in small business relief for a second round of PPP, expanded PPP eligibility for nonprofits, critical access hospitals and local news media, grants for our hardest-hit industries like restaurants, concert venues, and theaters and investment in communities of color that have too often been left behind. This significant support for the nation’s small businesses as part of a comprehensive relief bill is a must have to address the far-reaching impacts of the crisis we face.”

The HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act would: 

·         Extend and improve PPP to better serve small businesses. The bill extends PPP through March 2021, provides a second PPP for the hardest-hit small businesses and nonprofits, expands eligibility to ensure nonprofits and critical access hospitals can participate, simplifies the forgiveness process, repeals the requirement of deducting an EIDL advance from the PPP forgiveness amount, and removes limitations that unfairly restrict small businesses owned by formerly incarcerated individuals from securing a PPP loan.

·         Extend and expand the Debt Relief program. The bill extends payments of principal, interest, and fees on all preexisting and new 7(a), 504 and microloans for up to a year, with more relief targeted to existing borrowers in underserved markets and the hardest-hit sectors.

·         Support the smallest, most vulnerable businesses. The bill includes a new $40 billion Lifeline Grant program, of which half is set aside for undeserved businesses, that provides grants of up to $50,000 to vulnerable small businesses that have suffered a significant economic loss and creates a new $15 billion grant program for state and local governments to provide funds to vulnerable small businesses in their communities.

·         Deliver targeted assistance to small businesses in struggling industries. The bill includes the Save our Stages (SOS) Act and the RESTAURANTS Act, which provide dedicated assistance for industries that rely on large gatherings, including restaurants, concert venues, and theaters.

·         Invest in underserved communities. The bill invests in the mission- and community-based lenders that have a demonstrated history of getting capital to minorities, women, and other underserved communities. Specifically, it includes a dedicated $15 billion PPP set-aside for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), $1 billion in support for CDFIs, and a $13 billion for a new Neighborhood Capital Investment Program to support CDFIs and MDIs.

·         Improve existing small business initiatives. The bill builds on the Small Business Administration‘s (SBA) core programs, including 7(a), Community Advantage, 504, and the Microloan program, by making them more affordable and useful to small businesses. It also strengthens the accountability and transparency of SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and makes other commonsense improvements like removing the Trump administration’s arbitrary $150,000 cap on EIDL loans.

·         Help minority-owned businesses respond to COVID-19. HEROES 2.0 provides emergency grants to minority business enterprises through the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). The legislation also formally and permanently establishes MBDA and gives it the tools to carry out its mission to help minority entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.