After a year of unprecedented challenges for small businesses owners and their employees, I have good news to begin the new year: economic relief is on the way. In Congress, I fought for and secured $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds in the year-end COVID-19 relief bill passed in December. PPP provides forgivable loans to small business owners in the Commonwealth and across America. From family restaurants and bars to small manufacturers and farmers in Central and Eastern Kentucky, this new round of PPP funds will be a lifeline.

PPP was a lifeline for Steven of Lexington. When he reached out to my office, Steven was unsure if his 16-year old business was going to make it through the pandemic. After applying and receiving a forgivable PPP loan, Steven’s business and the five workers he employs were saved. Steven is one of over 500 small businesses assisted by the Small Business Response Team that I established in my office back in April, during the first round of the PPP. Since that time, almost $1 billion in forgivable loans have been given to small businesses right here in the Sixth District. If your business needs help navigating the PPP process, please reach out to my office at 859-219-1366.

Additionally, this package delivers on the push I led in Congress to provide more assistance to the hard-hit hospitality industry. PPP will expand eligibility, making destination marketing companies like VisitLex eligible to apply for PPP funds. Also, PPP will allow restaurants, hotels and other hospitality businesses the ability to apply for a PPP loan that is 3.5x monthly payroll as opposed to 2.5x for other applicants.

The relief bill doesn’t leave small businesses that already received PPP funds behind either. For months, I have heard concerns from Sixth District small business owners about the complicated PPP loan forgiveness application. Many feared having to hire expensive outside accounting or legal help to complete the complicated application. I responded to these concerns in Congress by organizing a bipartisan group of approximately 100 lawmakers to push for a simplified, one-page forgiveness application. As a direct result of this advocacy, small businesses that received loans of $150,000 or less in value, which accounts for 86% of all PPP loans approved, may now complete a one-page application. Lastly, small businesses that received loans will also be able to deduct PPP loans from their federal taxes, a change that I advocated and will effectively provide a much-needed tax break for hard-hit businesses.

While all of this relief is necessary and will make a huge impact, many small businesses may be unable to operate normally until the COVID-19 virus is defeated. To that end, I voted in support of $10 billion towards Operation Warp Speed at the beginning of the pandemic. Because of this investment and the incredible work of scientists, researchers and American innovators, we generated three COVID-19 vaccines within a year. To speed up vaccine delivery to the American people, I voted in support of $48 billion for vaccine distribution to schools, small businesses and healthcare providers, and $20 billion for the purchase of vaccines that will make the vaccine available at no charge for anyone who needs it.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in Kentucky and throughout the country. A staggering 47% of Americans work for a small business. I pledge to continue listening and responding to the needs of small businesses during this Congress. Above all, I will live up to the “Guardian of Small Business” award given to me by the National Federation of Independent Businesses in 2020 by opposing proposals by the new Administration to raise taxes, impose crushing regulations or pass a national minimum wage hike that threatens to financially ruin more small businesses as many fight for survival.