“It Scares Me”: Three Small Business Owners Explain What They Need From Congress
NFIB members are speaking directly to the nation’s leaders. During NFIB’s 2020 Virtual Fly-In in August, small business owners explained how they’re dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic – and what they need from Congress to come through this crisis.
Brad Close, NFIB President and CEO, issued a call to action to NFIB members: “Congress will soon be debating issues that directly impact your business.” He said: “You are needed now more than ever.”
NFIB has laid out a five-point plan that should guide Congress’ next recovery bill. NFIB has also given Congress a path to prevent surprise tax hikes on small businesses and stop an anti-small business mandate from passing with defense spending.
During a virtual meeting with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, he praised NFIB’s efforts to connect small businesses with lawmakers: “Hearing directly from your members in important… the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and in this case, the squeaky wheel gets the PPP.”
Among the many members who shared their stories during the 2020 Virtual Fly-In were, Jeanne Bell of Massachusetts, Steven Sudduth of Maine, and John Bailey of Pennsylvania. These three owners urged action on NFIB’s biggest policy priorities.
Jeanne is the co-owner of Westside Finishing in Holyoke, Massachusetts. During the Virtual Fly-In, she spoke with the office of her Member of Congress, Rep. Richard Neal.
Westside Finishing is a family-owned business that takes in metal parts, paints them to specifications, and ships them back to customers. They have about 55 employees.
When COVID-19 hit, the company was able to stay open, but its sales dropped by nearly a third. Rather than lay anyone off, the company cut every employee’s hours down to 30 hours a week.
After the business received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, it was able to bring everyone back to 40 hours a week and continue their benefits. Jeanne describes the loan as “a lifesaver.”
As Jeanne described, her company did what Congress wanted them to do — keep their employees. But then in late April the IRS issued a rule saying that forgiven PPP loan expenses would be taxable, despite congressional guidance to the contrary.
Without a change, Jeanne will be facing a huge tax bill. She says: “the IRS changed the rules after I signed on the dotted line. I’m hoping that Congress will change it to the original intent and not have those funds be taxable.”
Her business, and her employees, are counting on it.
Steven and his family own Wyonegonic Camps in Denmark, Maine. It is the oldest girls camp in Maine, having opened in 1902. During NFIB’s Virtual Fly-In, Steven spoke with Senator Susan Collins and the office of Senator Angus King.
Despite the pandemic, the company has not yet had to let any year-round employees go. Unfortunately, it was unable to hire the 80 seasonal staff that are usually brought on during summer months.
Steven warns that he’s looking at an extended period of financial troubles until the next camp season starts in the spring of 2021, and camp reservations and cashflow begin again.
Meanwhile, he has large expenses looming: He has “insurance premiums that are due now, property taxes are due now, I’ll have to put capital improvements on hold,” and more. Reflecting on everything, Steven says: “It scares me.”
The business has asked its alumni for financial help, and Steven and his fellow owner-operators have agreed to begin taking no salary for the rest of the year. He warns: “coming up soon, I will have no cash reserves” and “very little in the checking account.”
He’s not sure how the company will make it to March or April. Like countless other small businesses, Steven needs Congress to provide another round of pandemic relief financial assistance so that Wyonegonic Camps can survive past its 118th year in business.
John is the owner of Bailey Coach, a family-owned bus and sedan charter company in York, Pennsylvania. During the Virtual Fly-In, he spoke with Rep. Scott Perry.
Bailey Coach was hard-hit by COVID-19. At the start of the year, he had 62 employees. Now he has 4 employees. Sending his employees home was “the hardest thing I ever had to do in business.”
John was able to get a PPP loan, which enabled him to bring all his employees back to work. Unfortunately, there was no work for them to do. He says, “we did not turn one wheel in a bus from March the 16th to July 18th or 19th.”
John says he “doesn’t have any revenue whatsoever.” But he still has expenses piling up, including bus payments, taxes, insurance, and other fees and operating expenses. Cancellations continue to pile up. The fall, which is usually the company’s busiest time, is slower than ever.
What does John need? Another PPP loan. That’s what will enable him to bring his staff back, pay them, and survive until business comes back to normal over the next few years.
What’s Your Story?
Every NFIB member has a story that Congress needs to hear. Please contact us or share your experience in this brief survey. As lawmakers begin debating another pandemic recovery bill, your voice can help ensure it contains the support that you and small businesses across America need.
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