ABAHR Leaders Join with other Regional Organizations in Conference Call on "Opening Up America" with Senator Mark Warner
On May 8, 2020 Senator Mark Warner conducted a conference call with several representatives from the minority community with regard to his appointment to the "Opening Up America Committee". Senator Warner stated that there is a need to have demographic data documented during this process of Opening Up America. Petula Moy, CEO of Moy Financial and past ABAHR president, asked what is the timeframe of this process. Senator Warner responded that each Governor will decide the timeframe for their own state. They will be observing Georgia's reopening since it is the canary in coal mine at this point. He noted that the increase in more tests being done is a factor in the increase in new cases reported. Petula Moy asked what his position on racism against Chinese-Americans. He stated that the Chinese Communism Party is the problem not the Chinese people and that racism will not be tolerated. He stated that there is a No Hate Act being considered by Congress.
Dr. Harry Zhang, ODU professor and ABAHR Board member asked about minority businesses having difficulty accessing the PPP loans. A representive from Black Brand (Hampton Roads Regional Black Chamber of Commerce) asked a similar question about the community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Senator Warner addressed both questions by stating that minority businesses are definitely affected worse and sources of capital must be set up in a more fair way. He added that more data is needed regarding the problems minority businesses are facing when getting processed.
Mr. Tim Bradshaw, CEO of Insercorp Inc. and ABAHR Advisory Board member asked what tax relief/abatement programs will be available to business owners. Senator Warner stated that President Trump is proposing a payroll taxcut program. Senator Warner proposes the Paycheck Security Act to cover the wages and benefits of employees of affected businesses. He stated that midsize businesses with 750 employees have no help now and have to continue to pay their overhead. He referenced the success in Germany and Singapore due to payroll tax cuts.
Naomi Estaris of the Filipino American Community of Hampton Roads asked about grants to home based businesses especially those providing personal services such as nails, hair, etc. Senator Warner stated that the definition of "unemployed" has been expanded and that these micro to small businesses have access to the PPP loans. It is his opinion that these loans will be liberally converted to grants. He stated that the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance program is backlogged at this time.
Benjamin Equitan, Director and Financial advisor at Ramiscal Equitan Advisors asked whether more guardrails would be implemented so that huge public companies would not be able to access PPP loans. Senator Warner stated that there are huge companies who can demonstrate a 20% revenue loss and getting PPP loans. He admonished companies taking PPP loans if they do not have full economic loss.
Dr. Vinod Agarwal of the Strome College of Business at ODU asked asked whether we were one nation or fifty subnations in terms of national Covid 19 testing coordination and reopening this country. Senator Warner answered that in terms of reopening, it is being left up to each Governor who will based their decisions on medical experts' advice.
Mr. Patel in the hotel industry stated that he is trying to get employees back to work but they are reluctant due to collecting umemployment and other federal relief. He stated he needed to run efficiently and did not want to be penalized for hiring a new labor force. Senator Warner stated that he "believed businesses like this should not be penalized" and could not guarantee but hoped the Treasury Department would work with such businesses as opposed to the PPP abusers such as public companies who applied for these loans.
There were several other questions from other minority community representatives, but I was not able to properly identify them. Senator Warner addressed other questions by stating the Committee is researching Apple and Google contact tracing that will alert individuals when they were next to a person who tests positive at some point. He confirmed that at this point, post Covid grant programs are not available. Several individuals asked what happens when the money runs out July 31st and jobs and businesses are lost. He stated that moving loans to grants and offering tax and cash credits may assist workers and businesses to survive. He agreed that more information on PTSD needs to be distributed concerning mental health issues as a result of Covid-19. May is Mental Health month. He agreed that it is a valid question as to why the U.S. isn't buying PPE in bulk to distribute to workers in the food industry/meatpacking plants. He stated there is a need to create a domestic supply chain so that the U.S. does not need to be reliant on foreign nations.