Marco Rubio on Senate Floor: Time to Pass Additional PPP Relief

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., addressed the Senate on the need for additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A lightly edited transcript of Rubio’s remarks on the Senate floor is below:

I don’t know of any topic that has more support around here than the helping of small businesses. I think the biggest evidence of that is that every member of this body — I’d venture to guess almost everyone — has at some point you know, gone back home and bragged about what we’re able to achieve together in a bipartisan way.

To remind everybody, this program has never existed before. It was put together in a bipartisan way with the ranking member, the senator from Maryland who we just heard from, and we worked on it, I think it was six or seven days and it wasn’t a perfect program. And like anything new this big that fast, it had some hiccups.

We worked in a bipartisan way with the administration to implement it. I’ll say this without any reservation. It was by far the single most effective piece of that CARES package, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I’m back in Florida or, frankly, anywhere in the country, that I don’t hear about it. I don’t know of anyone here who hasn’t. One of the most common themes when we go places is a small business owner that says, “PPP was a lifesaver.” And then they ask, “Is there more on the way? Because we’re still struggling.”

That it’s a lifesaver is without question. I mean, I look at Florida. Over 430,000 of these PPP loans — which really in most cases are going to end up being grants — were made. That was $32 billion of relief into our economy. The ranking ,ember’s home state, 87,000. I looked at some other states just quickly on the way over here. Iowa, 61,000. In North Carolina, 129,000 of these were made. Michigan, 128,000. Arizona, 85,000. Colorado, 109,000 of these made. Montana, 23,000. The state of Maine, where Senator Collins was a key part of all this, 28,000. Georgia, neighboring Florida, 174,000. I could go on and on. Other things we should be really proud about PPP is that, you know, two thirds of the loans — the grants — were under $50,000 which tells you about the size of these businesses. In fact, 70 percent — 70 percent — of these were made to businesses that had 10 employees or less. By far the most effective thing that we did.

You can look at the jobs figures. I have this chart up here just to show it. I mean, this was PPP and small business employment. If you look at the precipitous drop off into March and then once PPP began to get disbursed you see those numbers, as the dispersal goes up, the chart goes up. Now, perfect? No. Do we want [the small business employment rate] back up here? Of course. Are there businesses that didn’t make it? Sadly, yes. But there are people working right now, there are small businesses that were going to be wiped off the face of this country’s economy that are open, to this day, because of what we were able to do.

But it expired. Meaning you can only get it once, there was a date where it cut off, the Ranking Member wisely moved and we all agreed and were able to extend it by another month to help people apply. But now you can’t go back. So what do you do now? You’re a business or a restaurant, for example. You use PPP once, you’ve expended that money over 24 weeks, and now you’re in the same boat, or potentially in the same place you were back in March and April. Money is gone, customers aren’t back yet, and you’re about to close, and people are about to get laid off. So we need to do a second round.

And there’s a lot of other things we can do for small business, I agree with that wholeheartedly. But this is one that I think we have to do, because there’s tremendous agreement. And the reason why it’s not happening is because number one, some people think it’s leverage. Everyone likes PPP, so let’s hold out on it. Let’s not do it until it’s part of a broader package of things unrelated to small business, because it’s so popular it’s the carrot that will bring everybody towards supporting the broader deal. That may have made sense back in May or June, but not now, not in October. Not when we have long since expended the monies that these companies received and now they’re facing the same situation they were in back in March and early April. Now we have to do what we can. I don’t think we can fall — unfortunately we have, but it’s not very smart — to fall into this habit of saying if we can’t do everything, we shouldn’t do anything. That’s just across the board. There are a lot of other areas that we need to be providing COVID relief in. I agree with that, but we’re not going to do it in six days. We should have done it a long time ago, it didn’t come to that. But this is one piece I think we could all agree on. And even for small businesses — and I only caught the tail end of what he was saying, the ranking member points to a lot of other things we could do to help small businesses. I agree with that. There are things beyond PPP that would help them.

The fundamental challenge we have here is we have a limited amount of time to get this thing done and I appreciate the idea that while the House already passed it…that is not something that’s going to become law. That’s the reality. Just like there are things that we want on this side that are not going to become law, because to pass a law right now, in Washington, requires passage in a Senate with a Republican majority, but not 60 Republicans, so you need Democratic votes. You need that body to pass it. You need a Democratically controlled House to pass it, and a Republican president to sign it. That’s just, you know, basic math, in terms of what it takes. That’s just the basic outline of what it takes to turn whatever it is we’re talking about here into a law and to actually help people. If you want to help people, we have got to figure out something that at least 60 people in the Senate, a majority in the House will agree on, and that the president will sign. And the one thing I know for sure that could get that — if we just had a straight up or down vote on it — is the notion of extending a second round of PPP assistance to a targeted number of small businesses. That’s it.

Now, is that everything I want to do? No, I want us to do more. And by the way, if we could figure something more to do in the meantime, that would be great. But this must happen. There’s no way of explaining to people, well hold on a second, everybody agrees that we need to do more just to extend PPP. Well, why haven’t you done it? And then you have to explain, well because there [were] nine other things we wanted to do for small business, but since we couldn’t agree on those, we didn’t do the one we agreed on. Or, there [were] a bunch of other things, non-small business related that we wanted to get done, and because those didn’t happen, we’re holding the whole thing up. People just don’t understand, that doesn’t make sense in the real world to anybody.

So bottom line is this, we have a basic formula here that, if we put aside those considerations, could get support, could pass, pretty quickly. And the other issues, they’re still going to be there, and we should do them too. But we shouldn’t hold this up in order to do that. And that’s what we’re going to have a chance to do here in a few minutes. And if we don’t ?— if we don’t, then we’ll have to explain, all of us, explain to people why it is that this is being held up. And if you tell them it’s because people want leverage for more stuff? They’re not going to understand that.

It’s very simple. Anyone watching or anyone who watches this later, it’s a very simple concept we have before us right now the ability to help at the tune of close to 250 billion dollars, millions of small business workers across this country and their employers to keep them on payroll to stay open for a few more months as we get through this pandemic. We have a chance to do it through a model that we know works, a model that was recently used, just reupping that for a second round to a targeted number of small businesses under a certain number of employees facing certain revenue constraints.

We even opened it up to some additional not for profits. We have a chance to do that, and then we’ve got all these other things that we should do as well and we should do those too.

But we shouldn’t wait for those things to do this thing, to do this help right now, because this is not theoretical. Right now, this very moment there are thousands upon thousands of small businesses that are holding on on a week by week basis, and whether or not they can survive, isn’t it up to them. It’s up to whether the local government allows them to open and at what capacity, it’s up to whether their customers have the financial wherewithal to go back and visit or spend. It’s businesses we’ve talked about restaurants, absolutely and live venues, absolutely, and all those other places that have been hurt in hospitality, without a doubt.

But other businesses are being hurt too, I know a dry cleaner in South Florida who’s being hurt you say, well, why they’re allowed to open. Well, because when people stopped working and going to certain places, they spent less money on dry cleaning. And now a place that had eight employees has six, and of the six, four are only part time. They have an opportunity if they got PPP to keep that workforce employed full time, it would matter to those families. And we can do this, and doing that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything else. These other issues still have to be addressed. But let’s at least do this. It isn’t everything, but it’s a lot and it’s something. And it will matter and there is no reason not to do it.

It will in no way keep us from doing the other things that need to be done. Again, just because we are not going to do everything in one shot should not mean that we don’t do something. We have a chance to do something and it’s meaningful and it’s a model we know that works. And it’s a model that we’ve all supported in the past and it’s one that I hope that in the next few minutes, some people will change their minds on and support now. Because to not do something, it’s inexplicable, it would make no sense to real people in the real world, who are just trying to hold on and can’t figure out why it is we are here and we can’t do something to help them, that they’re our highest need.

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