July 21, 2020
The Honorable Senator Ben Cardin
509 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Cardin,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with the Greater Baltimore Committee’s COVID-19 Business Recovery Advisory Council regarding pending Congressional action to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) reiterates our sincere gratitude for your leadership throughout the crisis in negotiating prompt federal action to benefit Maryland businesses and residents who are struggling amidst the economic fallout from the pandemic-related closures and restrictions.
As Congress prepares to take additional legislative action to address the pandemic before the August recess, the GBC is closely following the negotiations in the hope that the legislation will provide relief to business, government, nonprofit organizations and individuals. As you and other esteemed members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation engage in negotiations in coming days, the GBC respectfully requests your favorable consideration of the following items that have emerged as priorities for the businesses in the Greater Baltimore Region:
- Prioritized support for small and minority owned businesses.
The majority of businesses in the Greater Baltimore region are small businesses with 10 or fewer
employees, and these businesses have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, data indicate that minority-owned businesses are being negatively impacted by the pandemic at disproportionate rates. The GBC supports your efforts to modify the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to prioritize loans to businesses of smaller size and those that have experienced significant revenue loss and encourages additional set asides to community lending and finance institutions that have better capacity to serve small and minority owned businesses.
- Expansion of small business support to include 501(c)4 and 501(c)6 organizations.
The GBC joins other business advocacy and trade organizations in requesting that small business grant and loan eligibility be extended to include 501c(4) and 501(c)6 organizations in addition to the 501(c)3 and 501(c)19 organizations that were included in the CARES Act.
- Additional funding for state and local governments.
With sharp revenue reductions across the board, state and local governments are facing tremendous budget challenges over the coming years. Within support to state and local governments, the GBC strongly advocates for increased funding for public schools, community colleges, and four year institutions and for dedicated funding to address the “digital divide” and ensure that virtual access to education, job training, and delivery of other essential services is accessible to all, particularly lower income residents.
- Increased support for transit.
A significant portion of the workforce in the Greater Baltimore region—especially those considered essential workers—rely on public transportation to access employment. In Baltimore City alone, roughly 30 percent of households do not own a car. Increased support for transit agencies is essential to ensure that our regional economy recovers from the pandemic and that workers have access to jobs. The GBC was disappointed that the Maryland Transit Administration would not have been eligible for formula funding in the transit funding provisions that passed in the HEROES Act. We urge the Delegation to advocate for support for transit agencies and to modify the funding criteria to ensure that the Maryland Transit Administration is eligible to receive funds.
- Liability protections for employers, particularly small business owners.
Many small business owners have expressed significant concern regarding liability during this period of phased reopening. The GBC urges a thoughtful and balanced discussion on reasonable liability protections for employers who adhere to safety precautions recommended by the CDC, OSHA, and other health and safety organizations and who follow state and local guidelines for operating status.
- A balanced approach to the extension of unemployment insurance benefits.
With unemployment numbers at unprecedented rates, the GBC supports an extension of benefits to ensure that those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic have sufficient income to care for themselves and their families. As state and local economies have entered phased reopening, many employers report challenges in bringing employees back to work whose incomes are higher under the enhanced UI benefit passed in the CARES Act. The GBC urges a balanced approach to ensure that individuals who need UI benefits receive them but that levels are comparable to pre-pandemic wages to encourage the return to work for those that can do so safely.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the GBC’s priority areas of focus for the next federal stimulus bill. We commend you and the members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation for your tireless efforts to ensure that the businesses and residents of Maryland receive needed federal support during this time of unprecedented challenge and economic disruption.
In our discussions you indicated that you would ask your staff to keep in touch with the GBC to receive any feedback that we may have regarding the benefits included in the legislation regarding small and minority businesses. If the GBC can be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at (410) 727-2820 ext. 12 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
Donald C. Fry
President & CEO
Greater Baltimore Committee
Mary Ann Scully
Chairman & CEO, Howard Bank
Chair, COVID-19 Business Recovery Advisory Council
cc: The Honorable Chris Van Hollen
The Honorable Anthony Brown
The Honorable Andy Harris
The Honorable Steny Hoyer
The Honorable Kweisi Mfume
The Honorable Jamie Raskin
The Honorable C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger
The Honorable John P. Sarbanes
The Honorable David Trone