RALEIGH — Today, during a virtual event held using Zoom, the nation’s top small business advocacy organization announced their endorsement of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for re-election.
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) announced that the Tillis’ endorsement comes via the organization’s political action committee, NFIB FedPAC. NFIB’s PAC contributed over $3,500 to Tillis’ campaign in 2014 and $9,500 in 2019.
“We need Thom Tillis in Congress to help us navigate this crisis and revive main street,” said NFIB’s North Carolina State Director Gregg Thompson. He also thanked Tillis for his work on behalf of small business in both the North Carolina General Assembly as well as in Congress.
Thompson noted that Tillis holds a career “100% NFIB voting record” and has received the NFIB’s “Guardian of Small Business Award” multiple times.
“We know without a doubt that he will continue to stand up for our small businesses in our state and across the country. On behalf of small businesses in North Carolina, I’m proud to endorse Sen. Thom Tillis for re-election,” said Thompson in a release following the event.
NFIB National Political Director Sharon Sussin joined Thompson in the endorsement of Tillis, citing his past advocacy for small business and stating that “Thom Tillis has a true understanding of the challenges our members face every day.”
Tillis indicated that Congress was working on a follow up to the CARES Act and that liability protections needed to be one of the first things addressed.
“There are a lot of responsible businesses that are following the rules of the road and I believe they should be given safe harbor from lawsuits,” said Tillis, adding there will be an “epidemic of lawsuits” if steps are not taken.
During the endorsement event, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was brought up. PPP is a loan program created under the CARES Act to help keep small businesses with less than 500 employees afloat and keep their employees paid during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congress provided around $349 billion for the PPP loans, which were granted through the Small Business Administration (SBA). The loans went fast, with funding running out in mid-April and Congress responded by added an additional funding to the program to the tune of $310 billion.
The SBA reported that by the end of July, over five million loans worth more than $521 billion had been made. Citing data from the SBA, the Trump Administration announced that PPP had saved “51.1 million jobs, as much as 84% of all small business employees.”
NFIB Leadership Council Chairman Gordon Hunt said that 123,000 small businesses in North Carolina benefitted from $12 billion in PPP loans. Hunt thanked Tillis for his work protecting small business in the state and called Tillis’ experience with small business “unmatched.”
As with the CARES Act, Tillis said there also needs to be more follow up with the PPP. He said many businesses were “weathering the storm” but that a lot of businesses were still struggling.
“They were the first into the crisis and they’re going to be the last out,” Tillis said of businesses such as travel, tourism, hotel and entertainment industries. “We’ve got to figure out how we can create facilities so that those businesses – and many and of them are small businesses – survive.”
Tillis’ challenger, Democrat Cal Cunningham, had initially criticized the PPP, calling it “unacceptable” and that it was leaving behind minority businesses. Yet, while Cunningham had attacked the program, it was revealed his company, WasteZero, had taken advantage of between $1 to $2 million in PPP loans.
After the WasteZero loans were made public, Cunningham claimed he wasn’t working at the company at the time the PPP application was made. He later admitted that he was “aware” of the company’s PPP application. Cunningham had stated he left the company on Mar. 20., but the loan application was made on Mar. 17.
When asked about Cunningham’s reaction to the PPP program, Tillis said, “Cal should really pay attention to what goes on at the Senate” and that there was “not a single vote against the Paycheck Protection Program.” He added that Cunningham had called for more transparency, yet the Senate has instituted an Inspector General for the program to address bad actors.
“The last thing Cal Cunningham should have been doing while businesses were lining up for these loans is criticize it and to make a business think twice about applying for the loan,” said Tillis. “Then we come to find out that the company he works for, WasteZero, was applying for a loan between $1 and $2 million dollars.”
On August 6, Gov. Roy Cooper extended his “Phase 2″ plan for a third time, keeping a number of businesses closed down another five weeks through Sept. 11. With the current PPP ending on Aug. 8, a number of business impacted by Cooper’s restrictions will likely still be in jeopardy.
Tillis was asked if another round of PPP would be created to target the specific businesses in North Carolina still being kept closed by Cooper’s orders and also for similar orders in other states.
The senator reaffirmed that another round of PPP was in the works with a specific eye on the “first in, last out” businesses such as the ones “shut down by the government and then kept down by the government.”
“I also feel like the governor needs to take a look at the rational basis for some of these closures,” Tillis said. “If a business is willing to open up and they’re willing to follow the rules for social distancing and workplace safety, I think they should be given a chance to open up.”
Tillis highlighted the disparity in some businesses being able to open while others cannot. He said that “we should be tuning reopening the way we are retuning the Paycheck Protection Program.”
“We have to figure out a way for businesses to bring a case before the governor or local governments who have restrictions that go beyond state government guidelines and give them a chance to open up safely,” Tillis said.
“We’re not going to be able to pass endless versions of the CARES Act,” said Tillis. At some point, we have to recognize that businesses have to open up again. They’ve got to do it in a safe way and we’ve got to be more responsive and get away from blanket closures, and, in some cases, irrational blanket closures for certain businesses in North Carolina.”