Hudson holds town hall to discuss Covid-19 economic aid

In a telephone town hall Tuesday morning, U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), along with U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (NC-10), answered questions about the federal government’s $2.2 trillion stimulus package, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in late March.

Though the stimulus provides aid across a variety of sectors, one of its biggest sections was a $349 billion loan program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The loans are offered through the Small Business Administration.

PPP provides small business loans to help cover rent, mortgage payments and basic overhead as well as payroll costs, McHenry said, adding that if businesses maintain their payroll for eight weeks the portion of the loan will become a grant and be forgiven.

The loans are delivered through banks and credit unions and all businesses — including nonprofits and self-employed individuals — with 500 or fewer employees can apply. The program is open until June 30.

The SBA has already allocated nearly $275 billion within the past week, McHenry said, adding that Congress is working to extend the funds for PPP in order to keep the program running.

Some banks and other financial institutions are still learning about all the intricacies with regards to the program while others are simply overwhelmed with loan requests, but Hudson said that’s not unexpected.

“Normally we have months for the federal agencies to write regulations and rules and put out the guidelines for banks and in this case they turned it around in a week,” Hudson said.

While Hudson acknowledged it has been rough getting the program rolled out, he has been working with several community banks in the district to get them information and help allay any of their fears.

If certain banks are having problems accessing the funds, McHenry said for people to go try other financial institutions they have relationships with.

“Some institutions are really good at processing these loans and others are having a hard time processing these loans,” McHenry said.

Hudson said one of his concerns was he would have liked to have seen the stimulus package be more targeted for those that were most in need, such as those in the restaurant industry.

“Your restaurant is closed down and so that waiter or waitress who works at your restaurant needs help and you need help keeping them on the payroll, but that grocery store next door, that person who works there probably has more overtime than they’ve ever had…and so they’re flushed with cash so they don’t necessarily need the assistance from the government right now.”

For businesses that have more than 500 employees, the Federal Reserve has created the Main Street Lending Program, which will offer four-year loans to companies employing up to 10,000 employees or with revenues of less than $2.5 billion.

“This is a low-interest rate loan for a short period of time and allows people to delay their first payment for a year so they can get through this really tough economic time,” McHenry said, adding the program will be up and running in a few weeks.

In regards to the ongoing pandemic, Hudson said his primary objectives for the district are to provide adequate resources to medical professionals, increase availability of tests and help make sure treatments and vaccines get to the counties as soon as possible.

“These are challenging times for us, but this is not a time to panic,” he said. “It’s a time for all of us to come together, be smart, follow the guidelines from our medical experts and our public health officials.”