By Reginald Tucker
The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) is calling on its members—now some 10,000 strong—to contact their respective representatives in Congress to encourage action on COVID-19 stimulus relief for small business.
Congress is currently considering a fifth round of major legislation to help small businesses and to stimulate the economy in response to the pandemic, but Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on a resolution.
In a video address to membership, Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA, expressed the sense of urgency. “There are four rounds of legislation that have already been passed in Washington, D.C., to help small businesses and also to stimulate the economy,” he said. “A fifth round is now being considered, and we want to make sure that your voice is heard. Because our voices combined are much louder than they are individually, your legislators need to know how you feel about this.”
To that end, the WFCA has crafted a letter for members to sign. In it, the WFCA and its members are asking Congress to help the floor covering industry with Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness—and to make that process as simple and easy as possible moving forward. The WFCA is also asking for a new round of PPP loans to keep the stimulus alive and help small businesses.
“We want to expand utilization of PPP loans so it’s not so incumbent on us, on what we have to do, but allows us more freedom in utilizing the funds that have been provided,” Humphrey explained. “We’d also like to talk about tax credits to offset the cost of personal protection equipment, PPE and new, long-term loan programs that are not PPP related. We also need protection against frivolous lawsuits.”
Members can access the form letter by visiting the group’s website and clicking on the “Coronavirus Response Center” tab. Visitors can then click on the “Take Action Pandemic Relief Legislation” button and simply input their name and ZIP code. (This helps members identify who their legislators are in their area.) The WFCA is also encouraging members to ask their employees and family members to fill it out. Once signed, the letters will be sent to members’ legislators.
“We need as many voices as we can so we can make a difference,” Humphrey stated.
Miles apart on an agreement
Congressional Democrats and Republicans are at odds over the size of the latest stimulus package as well as how funds would be allocated. Democrats have lobbied for $3 trillion in relief funding, while Republicans are hesitant to commit to more than half that amount.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats compromised and were willing to come down by $1 trillion if Republicans came up by the same amount, putting the price tag around $2 trillion.
Other sticking points include funding allocation. Democrats included more than $60 billion for nutrition programs, including food banks, whereas Republicans have allotted $240,000. In another example, Democrats want $915 billion to provide relief to state and local governments, while Republicans initially proposed $150 billion.
In a move to force Democrats to come around, President Trump recently signed several executive orders to alleviate the fallout of the pandemic. Among them: extended unemployment insurance benefits, deferred payroll taxes and freezing of student loan payments.
Critics argue that the requirement that states bear a significant percentage of the financial burden by helping to subsidize unemployment checks puts additional costs on top of local municipalities that are already hurting. Opponents also question the merits of how a payroll tax cut would help those who are unemployed. Despite the executive orders, which have drawn legal challenges, the lack of over-arching legislation means measures such as another round of checks, aid for schools reopening and broader rental assistance cannot occur.
While both parties see some areas of common ground philosophically—i.e., the need for more money for schools, child care, small businesses, hospitals and vaccines—just how much money should be allocated toward those areas is still very much a point of contention. To that end, the Senate adjourned until Sept. 8 but could return early if a deal is reached. The House has been out since the end of July and will return Sept.14, minus a deal.
Despite the impasse, the WFCA is encouraging its members not to be complacent. “The coronavirus has thrown us for a loop, but we can rally together to make a difference,” Humphrey said. “It’s time for us to put action to our words; our industry matters. We are the heart and the core of this country—hard-working, small businesses making this country survive and indeed thrive.”