The questions – and answers -- ranged from specific to speculative during a roughly 45-minute long small business roundtable meeting Thursday with U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-1, at Richmond Hill city hall.
And like most public gatherings in this time of COVID-19, the event was held outdoors, and with the minimum 6-feet social distance requirement between chairs.
Carter fielded questions with the help of an aide on speakerphone as he sought to explain trillion dollar federal spending packages aimed at providing relief to business owners worried about making payroll and keeping the lights on during closures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.
Phases I and III of the coronavirus stimulus effort include funding for
emergency loans through the Small Business Association and other banks to help
keep workers off unemployment. Phases I and II have already been enacted into
law. They include billions for testing, the Small Business Association's
Economic Injury Disaster Loans, paid sick leave and additional protections for
health care workers, among other things.
Phase III, which passed the Senate and was up for a vote in the House on Friday, would expand unemployment benefits and also provide tax credits to businesses which would be forgiven if the money’s used to keep workers and cover basic expenses.
Carter also addressed the direct payments to families. That’s
part of Phase III of the stimulus and will pay taxpayers $1,200 or $2,400 for
couples who file jointly, and $500 per child. That measure is income based and
is for couples making less than $150,000 or single taxpayers, according to
Carter. The amount will decrease by five percent per thousand dollars of
income, according to officials.
Carter said the stimulus isn't a bailout.
“This is about making sure people have liquidity and they can pay their bills,” he said. “This (virus) is nobody’s fault. This isn’t like 2008, which was a bailout."
Friday’s informal discussion made it evident the effort to help people weather the pandemic is a complex one. Questions aimed at Carter and his aide ranged from how to handle temporary or part time workers such as high school students to how much to borrow and how the process will work, and what happens if the pandemic ends soon or continues for months.
Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Johnson and Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter hosted the roundtable. Fish Tales and Fort McAllister Marina owner Butch Broome, ExperCare Urgent Care CEO Catherine Grant, businessman Jay Patel, Cedar Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Kyle Christiansen, businessman Gene Brogdon and Bubba’s Bistro owner Mark Thomas attended the event.
Carter urged businessmen and residents to visit his webpage for more details. Carpenter said the city’s special projects manager, Becky Myers, can help local businesses through the process of applying for help from the SBA.
Before it was over, Carter said he's ready to get back to normal.
"I can't wait until we can get back to shaking hands and hugging each other like we do in the South," he said.