By Rep. Buddy Carter
We were in the midst of the most robust economy in our history and unemployment was at historic lows when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world. Pro-growth policies like lower taxes enacted in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were working.
However, despite decisive action by President Trump and the Administration, the Chinese government’s inadequate response, lack of information sharing, and the World Health Organization’s failures caused COVID-19 to shutdown America. As a result, beyond the devastating health impacts, the livelihoods of many hard-working Americans have fallen victim to the virus due to no fault of their own.
As businesses across the nation were shuttered, Congress acted to pass four separate relief packages providing relief and funding to support our country and economy.
A critical piece of this relief was the creation of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. More than 99 percent of businesses are small businesses in the United States and they are the backbone of our economy.
The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic. We wanted to make sure hardworking Americans still received a paycheck during the pandemic while ensuring there were jobs to go back to as the economy began to reopen.
The program works by providing forgivable loans to small businesses as long as the money is used for things like payroll, rent and utilities. We also propped up the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program that provides economic relief to businesses facing temporary hardships.
Throughout the pandemic, I visited with businesses in the First District who were using the program. Skippers’ Fish Camp in Darien, Clay’s Sapelo Station in Townsend, Robbie Roberson Ford in Waycross, and All Things Chocolate and More in Richmond Hill are examples of great businesses in the First District who used the Paycheck Protection Program to bring their employees back on to the payroll.
According to the Small Business Administration, more than 136,000 small businesses in Georgia have received a Paycheck Protection Program loan totaling nearly $14 billion in assistance.
This program has been a lifeline for many small businesses, and coupled with Governors like Brian Kemp taking bold actions to reopen state economies, we are starting to experience the Great American Comeback. We’re seeing American businesses reopening, people are going back to work, and the economy is revving up again. The stock markets have erased many of the losses experienced during the pandemic and have hit record highs.
The unemployment rate was the highest since the Great Depression only a few months ago and the May jobs report stumped all economic forecasts, showing the economy adding millions of jobs and the unemployment rate dropping. Some economists had predicted that the country would lose another 7.5 million jobs. Instead, we saw the addition of 2.5 million jobs. This includes jobs in construction, hospitality and leisure. All areas that are important in Southeast Georgia.
Make no mistake, we have a long way to go, but this is an incredible display of what we as Americans can accomplish when we work together. The American spirit has shown through the pandemic and continues to be apparent in every town and city across the country.
As President Trump recently said, “we’re going to have the strongest economy in the world. We almost are there now. We had the strongest economy anywhere in the world, and now we’re going to have an economy that’s even stronger.”
Rep. Carter represents the First District of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives.