By Kerri Barber

Editors Note: At the time of this writing, House Democrats  unveiled an updated CARES Act bill at the same time the House Small Business committee reported 4 million unprocessed  Paycheck Protection Act applications carried over from the last funding bill.

On May 5, 2020 Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi made headlines promising a massive “Rooseveltian” relief package for Americans suffering under economic and health woes during the coronations pandemic.

So far, the only bill to surface, albeit in name only, is HR6697, submitted by New Hampshire Representative Chris Pappas on May 5. dubbed, “Amend the Small Business Act to expand the Paycheck Protection Program for certain organizations, and for other purposes,” the bill itself has no text nor summary reference on the Congress.gov bill tracking site for public view.

Progressive Insider contacted Representative Pappas’ office and a staffer confirmed the bill as the “501(c)6 bill”. The Internal Revenue Service classifies 501(c)6 nonprofit organizations as:

“IRC 501(c)(6) provides for exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players), which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual”

HR6697 is currently under review in the House Committee on Small Business. This committee  is hosting a virtual forum that will be live streamed for the public on Wednesday, May 13. 

The briefing will be recorded and live streamed for the public. Panelists include Tony Wilkinson, President & CEO, National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, Dafina Williams, Vice President of Public Policy, Opportunity Finance Network and Brett Palmer,
President, Small Business Investor Alliance who will discuss discuss, “the Paycheck Protection Program and future recovery efforts”.

Of particular concern to many progressive groups is the threat of these funds may once again go to fund lobby organizations instead of small businesses. Even low interest loans offered by SBA lenders are an affront as these loans  mean profits would be earned for private lenders using public federal funds.

Image courtesy of www.opensecrets.org, accessed May 12, 2020.

The Chamber of Commerce itself acts a large lobby group with expenditure of more than $77 million used to sway legislative decisions. The Chamber of Commerce lead 5,502 other l0bby groups in expenditures  for the entire 2019 year, despite an overall decline in their spending from a peak of $144 million in 2009.

Neil Patel wrote for Real Clear Politics explaining the cozy lobby relationship with these industry groups:

“Right this minute, there are teams of lobbyists trying to get all they can for their industry clients. It’s their job. They are good at it. They understand the complicated issues more than anyone else, and they know the members of Congress and their staffs.

“Sitting across the table will be the members of Congress (or, more likely, their staff(s), who are supposed to represent the American taxpayers during the ongoing negotiations. They share the same worldview. Together, they will define the terms of the bailout, and it will likely be so complicated that it may take weeks, or even months, for the rest of us to know exactly what they did.”

As of this writing, neither the text nor summary of HR6679 is available to the public. Neither are the texts versions and summaries of other legislation before the same committee. We have requested a copy from Rep. Chris Pappas’s office and await their remittance.

There  are a number of similar bills in consideration for the House Small Business Committee. Among them are:

  • H.R.6782 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To require the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to submit a report on recipients of assistance under the paycheck protection program and the economic injury disaster loan program, and for other purposes.
  • H.R.6781 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To provide for improved coordination between the paycheck protection program and the employee retention tax credit.
  • H.R.6779 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To specify the ineligibility requirements based on illegal activity or criminal record applicable to the Paycheck Protection Program and certain emergency relief programs under the CARES Act, and for other purposes.
  • H.R.6776 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To provide for improvements related to the employee retention tax credit.
  • H.R.6765 — 116th Congress (2019-2020) To cancel and waive certain debts owed to the United States with respect to Hurricane Sandy, and for other purposes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired a series of bills intended to support the economy during massive quarantines intended to protect public health.  One of the first bills to pass in April 2020 included $480 billion in funds intended to help small businesses. Those funds, however, were largely paid out to large publicly traded companies, not local Main Street businesses. Additional funds were provided to the Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Association to be used to create low interest loans and grants for agriculture businesses.

Prior to this, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March followed the $12 trillion given to Wall Street banks that same months.