President Donald Trump halted negotiations for a coronavirus stimulus bill last week, but has changed his tune in the days since, once again encouraging Congress to make a deal.
Meanwhile, Michigan residents and businesses sit idle, pleading for federal help.
“For small businesses to survive, we need immediate and direct financial support,” said Gricelda Mata, CEO of Lindo Mexico Restaurante near Grand Rapids. “That’s why it’s so frustrating to see the president of the United States cease negotiations until after the election.”
Trump argued in an Oct. 6 that the Democrats weren’t negotiating in good faith, saying “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major stimulus bill that focuses on hard-working Americans and small business.”
Negotiations will continue Monday between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, according to CBS News.
The sticking point has been, Democrats are pushing for a broader package while Republicans are seeking a smaller bill. Republicans have compromised up to a $1.8 trillion package while Democrats have compromised down to a $2.2 trillion deal.
Potential aid being discussed includes a second $1,200 stimulus check for Americans earning less than $75,000, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans for businesses, aid for the airline industry, restoring the extra $600 per week (or a lesser, compromised amount) for unemployed workers and more.
Business funding can’t wait until after the election, Mata said. While her restaurant has pivoted because of the pandemic, it’s one of many Michigan businesses that need help to keep up payroll.
“Before the pandemic, we were primarily a sit-down restaurant,” Mata said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we would be reliant on curbside and delivery orders. COVID has completely changed the game.”
It’s a similar story for Godwin Ihentunge, who’s Yum Village restaurant in Detroit pays employees $15.50 per hour along with earned sick leave, paid time off, 401(k) matches and health insurance.
To stay afloat, the business converted 40% of its indoor dining space into a new business called the “Yum Village Market Pantry,” selling the restaurants sauces, spices, produce and more. Yum Village received a PPP loan earlier in the year, but it hasn’t been forgiven yet, Ihentunge said.
“Millions of businesses and peoples’ lives are on the line,” Ihentunge said. “We can’t wait until after the election.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s latest tweets about a stimulus show promise – with the president urging Pelosi to bring him a deal, saying negotiations are moving forward and tweeting Monday that the Senate should hurry up and confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice so they can go back to focusing on passing a stimulus bill.
With three weeks until the election, state Rep. Mari Manoogian, D-Birmingham, is urging Trump to “knock it off” and “stop playing games.”
“Frankly, given the president’s erratic behavior on Twitter, it’s very hard to tell where (the potential for a stimulus bill) is moment-to-moment – let alone day-to-day,” Manoogian said.
It would take a crystal ball to tell whether Trump will facilitate an aid package before the election, Manoogian said. In the meantime, she’s focused on highlighting the financial challenges Michigan residents and businesses face because of COVID-19.
Consumer spending has rebounded in Michigan – it’s 16.9% higher than spending in January, after being down 38.2% in late March. But that hasn’t translated to small business revenue, which is still down 18.8% compared to January, per tracktherecovery.org.
Economists point to PPP loans for businesses as one of the most efficient ways to prop up the economy – in addition to increased unemployment dollars.
While the $1,200 stimulus helped some, many recipients used it to pay down loan balances and beef up savings accounts instead of increasing spending and boosting the economy, Michigan State University economics professor Charles Ballard said last month.