Biden kicks off ‘Help is Here’ tour

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'Help is here' tourBy Ken Ryan President Joe Biden chose a flooring store in suburban Philadelphia for his first stop in a cross-country canvas to tout his administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package—what the White House is calling the “Help is Here” tour. The president visited Chester, Pa.-based Smith Flooring, a minority-owned/woman-owned business, where he spoke with Kristin Smith, president, and James Smith, vice president, on the benefits of the relief package for small businesses like theirs.

“I still haven’t processed the gravity of it all,” Kristin Smith told FCNews about the president’s visit. “It was a memorable day for sure, but we don’t feel like celebrities. We are a small business, a small, minority-owned business and what we do every day are the things that have to get done to run a business.”

Smith said Biden spent nearly 45 minutes at the store discussing the elements of the relief package and asking questions related to their business. “[Biden’s] a wonderful guy, so warm and personable,” she said. “He’ll just ask you what is on his mind. It was like a regular conversation, it wasn’t ‘politicky.’ He got his points across on the help plan.”

Biden has said the purpose of the ‘Help is Here’ tour is to educate Americans about what benefits the package provides and how they can access the relief. The administration estimates that 400,000 small businesses have closed because of the pandemic and millions more are barely surviving. His aid package includes a $28 billion grant program to support restaurants and drinking establishments. It also includes $15 billion in flexible grants.

The visit to Smith Flooring was meant to drive home that point. The business saw revenue fall about 20% during the pandemic. It recently qualified for a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan during a two-week window in which the Biden administration focused the program exclusively on helping businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Smith Flooring had 23 employees during peak times but is currently employing 12 workers. It is using the loan to help retain workers and upgrade technology. Borrowers are eligible for forgiveness if they meet certain requirements, including devoting at least 60% of the proceeds to payroll expenses.

James Smith said the store will use the PPP loan to pay its employees. “Since the first run of PPP, we decided we wanted to take that money and not lay anyone off,” he said. “We put everybody in a group and said, ‘Look, we’re gonna do this for you as a team, we’re gonna get through this together.’”

Kristin Smith said she thanked President Biden for visiting, telling him, “not many people come out and stop here in Chester, and so we’re just grateful. We’re grateful for the things that you’re doing.”

Joining President Biden on the cross-country administration tour is Vice President Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff, and First Lady Jill Biden.

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