Following the Senate unanimously approving late Wednesday night a $2 trillion emergency relief bill that will help soften the edges of financial havoc for businesses, workers and families, local reaction to the unprecedented support was cautiously optimistic.
“The stimulus money will affect all the businesses, both big and small, and that’s a really good thing with what’s going with the economy right now,” said William Moore, president of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce. “All of our small businesses are struggling, and New Britain is overwhelmed with small businesses that will qualify for the program. This will especially help our restaurant and service industry sector, as well as those who’ve become unemployed due to the outbreak.”
The measure is set for House passage on Friday. If it passes, the package will send one-time payments directly to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits, provide loan programs for small businesses and more. For people who earn less than $75,000 a year, they will be eligible for the full $1,200 check per adult, $2,400 per couple, and $500 per child. Amounts begin phasing out at $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 per couple.
An emergency unemployment insurance program for $260 billion will allow a weekly benefit increase of $600 for four months. This includes extra 13 weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted existing benefits. It also covers part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers. For the small business program, it includes $350 billion in loans for companies with 500 employees or fewer, including nonprofits, self-employed people and hotel and restaurant chains. For tax breaks, it temporarily waives penalties for virus-related early withdrawals, eases required minimum annual disbursements from some retirement accounts.
“This is huge from both the financial and the psychological standpoint,” Moore said. “Knowing that some bills can be paid or some needs can be met, that’s a big deal. There’s value in the feeling of knowing you’ll get compensated somehow for the services you provide.”
Gerry Amodio, executive director of the New Britain Downtown District agreed, saying it’s important for both residents and businesses to apply for financial programs that could help them through this pandemic.
Amodio urged business owners to also apply for the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program, which is a one-year, no-interest loans of up to $75,000 program administered by the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development. The program will make $25 million available to state businesses and nonprofits that have 100 or fewer employees to assist with cash flow, something Amodio said the majority of New Britain’s community of small businesses are qualified for and they should take advantage of both state and federal aid.
“We know this community is poor. The government’s stimulus package is a good thing for our residents. That check will have enough money to support them for a while, but we also have to make sure that we start utilizing our resources better,” Amodio said. “The financial help is going to be a boost. But it’s not a panacea. It doesn’t mean you should stop counting your pennies. We don’t know how long this is going to be so it’s important to be cautious, but also stay positive.”
Similar sentiments are shared by other community leaders.
“We are hoping that the Connecticut allocation from the federal stimulus, combined with what the state is doing with the Bridge Program, will help businesses stay afloat during these uncertain times,” Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said. “We are monitoring all of these programs and our Economic Development department will be working closely with the Chamber of Commerce to analyze and disseminate the information out to the businesses that need it. All of these efforts have been bipartisan and that is exactly what is needed right now – eliminating all barriers and politics in order to get the money into the local economy as soon as possible.”
For Paulette Fox, executive director for the Opportunities Industrialization Center of New Britain, she believes it’s important for people to strategize on how to use that stimulus check, emphasizing the critical need for budgeting skills and financial literacy at a time of crisis and panic.
“I’m concerned as to how you roll it out and give the biggest impact for the people who need it,” Fox said. “But I do recognize this is a good thing. Especially for our low-income families, this will raise their spirits and show that the government cares about their well-being. At the same time, I’m hoping that the people who lost their jobs will be able to go back to work and kids are getting the education that they need.”
Like everyone else, Fox said she’s trying to stay positive and realizes the community has survived a lot of challenges together. “One of the good things that is coming out of this is that neighbors are connecting with each other again. It’s nice to see that.”
Cindy Bombard, president/CEO of the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, said it “will give some much needed relief to keep our economy going until everything turns around, which will take some time.”
“The most important aspect of this is to get it into the right hands immediately and that those business needing assistance have quick turnaround so they can keep their doors open to do business and keep the economy going,” Bombard said.
Payments to individuals affected by the COVID-19 outbreak will be a huge relief.
“The unemployment side of the stimulus package for those that have lost their jobs, this will at least help them with their monthly bills, keep their homes going, families fed, that includes the basic essentials for each of us to live and will also add to the economy to keep things moving forward,” she said.
Seeing the 96-0 vote in the U.S. Senate to approve the stimulus package “shows that this country can operate in a bipartisan fashion for the betterment of the people that made the USA strong,” she continued. “As everyone has said, we are all in this together, and it will take all of us to get us moving in the right direction.”
CCCC represents the chambers of Bristol, Burlington, Farmington, Plymouth and Wolcott, as well as membership from several other surrounding communities and manufacturing organizations, including the New England Spring and Metalstamping Association and Connecticut Tooling and Machining Association.
Susan Corica contributed to this story.
Contact Catherine Shen at 860-801-5093 or firstname.lastname@example.org