Senator Chris Coons

WILMINGTON With the dark cloud of the coronavirus pandemic threatening the country, there could be a little silver lining for businesses with a second back-up plan under President-elect Joe Biden, according to U.S. Senator Chris Coons.

“My hope is that we have an administration that takes this pandemic seriously and negotiates a bipartisan package… I expect that once he’s president, he communicates regularly with Congress and works with us to try to promulgate a [COVID relief] package, ”Coons said in a Nov. 13 webinar hosted by the Delaware Business Times. “I hope that during the transition period we will see a relief program that should have happened months ago. “

Coons, who sits on the Senate Small Business Committee and is a close friend of Biden, noted that the spirit of bipartisanship that led to the passage of the $ 2.3 trillion CARES law who created the over $ 500 billion paycheck protection program and direct dunning checks long ago faded over time.

Seven months earlier, House Democrats passed the Heroes Act, a second round of $ 3 trillion in stimulus funds, but Coons said the Senate had “done nothing” because of a disagreement on the package. Before the elections, the Democratic leadership and the Secretary of the Treasury Stephane Mnuchin was discussing a deal between $ 1.8 and $ 2.2 trillion.

For Congress, Coons said the top priorities of the new legislation were to simplify the loan program application process and terms of remission, including making sure there is no tax on loans. PPP and disaster economic lending, ensuring that small borrowers only have to certify its use instead of further review, and those applying for loans between $ 50,000 and $ 150,000 on would be one page or less.

While there is a bipartisan agreement on these aspects, Coons said he was not sure Congress would be able to pass it by the end of the year, as there is more debate. wide on the final price and if the direct raise checks, which averaged $ 1,200 per adult in the first round, would return. For Coons, the biggest unknown is whether President Trump would sign it in the dying days of a lame duck session.

“Over the past six weeks, President Trump has been going back and forth saying that he wouldn’t sign anything and that he wanted to go further… he has been largely absent from these negotiations, and that was literally motivated by [White House Chief of Staff] Mark Meadows and Mnuchin, and sometimes they would go into negotiations and say opposite things, ”he said.

Coons was confident that as president Biden would take a more active role in those negotiations, but the new commander-in-chief’s top priority would be to bring the pandemic under control.

“The most important thing the Biden-Harris administration can do for business is listen to scientists and public health officials,” he said. “If we have an uncontrolled nationwide spread, we will proceed with closures across the country. President-elect Biden is already trying to get governors who have resisted the imposition of masks or the imposition of restrictions on hours of operation and operating practices. “

The first signs of the Biden administration’s attitude toward small business will be found in its selection of administrator of the Small Business Administration and secretary of the US Department of Commerce. Other key organizations would also include regulatory offices like the FFederal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as well as how they prioritize access to capital for small businesses, Coons said.

“Based on my conversation with the head of treasury and the Biden administration transition team for this, you will see sustained engagement with small businesses on the part of the incoming administration,” he said. he adds.

Looking ahead, Coons said moving health care reform would be the “biggest momentum” Congress would face in the next administration, even without the looming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the move. Affordable Care Act.

The future of Opportunity Zones, a popular reinvestment tool for census tracts designated as economically struggling, also remained uncertain. Coons had worked with Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.) on the original bill which proposed zones of opportunity, but said he struggled to take full advantage of them due to regulations on how the department of the Treasury deploys them.

“With a new administration and a new secretary of the treasury, I hope we’re going to look at them and reinvent them, not get rid of them,” Coons said. “The STAR campus is in an area of ​​opportunity, which has helped drive investment and there are ways to accelerate this investment in lab space. “

By Katie Tabeling

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