In Pennsylvania, Biden showcases aid to small businesses

·4 min read

CHESTER, Pa. — President Joe Biden turned up at a minority-owned flooring business in suburban Philadelphia on Tuesday to highlight how his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package can help small businesses, stressing along the way that the massive bill passed without any help from Republican lawmakers.

The visit to Smith Flooring, Inc. was Biden’s first stop in an ongoing cross-country administration roadshow — also involving his vice-president and his wife — designed to publicize, and take credit, for the virus relief package.

It “took some loud, strong voices to get this done,” Biden said, making a subtle dig at Republicans during his visit to the small union shop that will benefit from the relief. “And it’s not like it passed with 100 votes. It was close.”

Biden is trying to showcase how the aid package will bring transformational change to the nation by halving child poverty, fueling record levels of hiring and pumping money to parents, schools and state and local governments. It’s a sharp turn from the start of the Biden administration, when vaccination goals were relatively modest and Americans were warned the country might not return to normal until Christmas.

While Biden was in Pennsylvania for his first stop on the “Help is Here” tour, Vice-President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff were reinforcing the small business theme Tuesday with stops in Colorado.

And in Washington, the Senate confirmed Isabel Guzman, Biden’s pick to lead the Small Business Administration on Tuesday. She is expected to play a key role in implementing the relief bill.

The Biden administration estimates that 400,000 small businesses have closed because of the pandemic and millions more are barely surviving. His aid package includes a $28 billion grant program to support restaurants and drinking establishments. It also includes $15 billion in flexible grants.

The visit to Smith Flooring was meant to drive home that point. The business saw revenue fall about 20% during the pandemic. It recently qualified for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan during a two-week window in which the Biden administration focused the program exclusively on helping businesses with 20 or fewer employees.

Smith Flooring had 23 employees during peak times but currently is employing 12 workers. It is using the loan to help retain workers and upgrade technology. Borrowers are eligible for forgiveness if they meet certain requirements, including devoting at least 60% of the proceeds to payroll expenses.

Harris, meanwhile, held a virtual chat with the operators of a Fort Lupton, Colorado, vaccine clinic and also met with small-business owners in Denver, including the owner of small chain of empanada shops in the city.

The second day of the vice-president ’s tour to publicize the virus relief was disrupted because of a mechanical issue with the government plane that flew the vice-president to Las Vegas and Los Angeles on Monday. A smaller backup plane was sent to fly her to Denver, relegating most of her staff, Secret Service and a small group of reporters to fly on a cavernous cargo plane.

Because of the plane issue, Harris scratched her plan for her visit to the vaccine clinic, Plan De Salud Del Valle Inc., and instead spoke with the clinic’s staff over Zoom. She praised their work, making particular note of the clinic’s focus on helping minority communities get vaccinated.

“The President and I from the beginning of this have made it one of our highest priorities to make sure that we are taking into account racial disparities, and that we supply folks on the ground with the resources you need so that we have equitable outcomes,” she said.

The road show began Monday with Harris visiting a COVID-19 vaccination site and a culinary academy in Las Vegas and first lady Jill Biden touring a New Jersey elementary school.

The White House is wasting no time promoting the relief plan, which Biden signed into law last week. It is looking to build momentum for the rest of his agenda and anxious to avoid the mistakes of 2009 in boosting that year’s recovery effort. Even veterans of President Barack Obama’s administration acknowledge they did not do enough then to showcase their massive economic stimulus package.

___

Superville reported from Fort Lupton, Colorado and Madhani from Chicago.

Josh Boak, Darlene Superville And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press