Every year during the holiday season, I encourage South Dakotans to support the small businesses that make South Dakota great. This year, though, “shopping small” is one of the biggest ways we can help our neighbors and our communities through this challenging time.
While the pandemic has taken a toll on everybody in one form or another, it has presented a particular challenge for many small businesses throughout our state, even though our economy has been relatively resilient. Recognizing this hurdle, South Dakotans have already helped support their local communities over the last nine months by shopping small during these unprecedented times. They ordered more carryout, purchased more goods online, and visited more Main Street stores.
I’d also like to recognize the state’s economic development effort and our local chamber organizations for their support in keeping our Main Streets open. As we continue to face these pandemic-related challenges in South Dakota and throughout our region, I hope everyone keeps this spirit alive.
When Congress first crafted the bipartisan CARES Act, the most comprehensive COVID relief bill to date, one of our main goals was to make sure small businesses across the country, including the self-employed, independent contractors, and farmers and ranchers, could pay their workers, keep them employed, and cover other expenses during this health crisis. While I was proud to support multiple COVID relief measures that continue to help Main Streets across America, one of the single most important initiatives to keep our small businesses open was the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
PPP was designed to keep as many people employed as possible throughout this crisis. More than 5 million small businesses – including more than 23,000 in South Dakota – have taken advantage of PPP’s forgivable loans to help keep their businesses operating and their employees on the payroll. And more than two-thirds of these loans were for $50,000 or less, which means the program has helped many of our nation’s smallest businesses during these difficult times. I wish so many small businesses didn’t need to rely on PPP as a lifeline, but I’m proud of our effort, and the demand for the program has certainly proven its value.
Senate Republicans believe there’s need for additional support and have introduced new COVID relief legislation that’s targeted and fiscally responsible. It would, among other things, allow the hardest-hit small businesses – those that are able to demonstrate a sizeable decline in revenue – to receive a second PPP loan. It would also help schools and colleges operate safely and provide additional resources so health care professionals can continue to fight the virus. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked this COVID relief legislation for purely political reasons. I remain hopeful, though, that they’ll work with us to find common ground to provide this much-needed relief.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: South Dakotans have always gone above and beyond when it comes to helping our communities through tough times. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a global pandemic, they’re always willing to help. So, when it comes to supporting hard-hit small businesses – the heartbeat of South Dakota and the backbone of our economy – I know that our state will continue to support these pillars of our communities.