Cory Gardner on business recovery amid COVID-19: Time to instill confidence, change PPP

Sen. Cory Gardner says federal efforts to boost the economy during the coronavirus pandemic must instill confidence in consumers and help businesses that are now suffering because they closed for the health of their communities.

On Wednesday, Gardner, R-Colorado, shared developments on federal efforts with members of NoCo Strong, a group of Northern Colorado government leaders who have been gathering weekly via videoconference to consider business needs.

Fort Collins City Council member Ken Summers told Gardner that getting businesses operating at full capacity as soon as possible is what's going to help the most.

Rules that keep businesses operating at partial capacity "prolong the inevitability of going bankrupt," Summers said, even as Larimer County sees fewer coronavirus cases. He suggested health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, viewed as "the voice of God" when it comes to coronavirus, give recommendations that allow the economy to ramp up as quickly as possible.

"We have to make sure that those businesses who can't be open at 100% capacity are able to make it through," Gardner responded. "Because government said, 'Close your doors, shut down, stay at home,' we need to make sure we're there to get them through this and back open and snapping back to the full strength of our economy.

"But confidence matters too, because even if you said that restaurant could seat 100% of its capacity and people didn't trust that the health emergency has been dealt with, they're not going to go."

Gardner said rapid testing, serology tests and readily available protective equipment are needed to create that trust.

"The sooner we flatten the curve even more, stop the spread even more, come up with a vaccine, do the testing out there ... we’re going to get this economy back faster than ever."

Gardner said federal lawmakers are working on modifications to the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans guaranteeing eight weeks of payroll assistance and other efforts to help businesses and, in turn, their employees.

Changes could include an extension of assistance to 24 weeks and allowing PPP money to be used to purchase personal protective gear.

"We know we can do better," Gardner said, saying at the time the program was created, eight weeks seemed like enough. 

Gardner also touted legislation he is sponsoring, the Great American Outdoors Act, as a way to provide an economic boost through projects. 

The effort would fund up to $1.9 billion per year in backlog maintenance projects at national parks, the U.S. Forest Service and more. He said dollars spent locally would fix roads, trails and visitors centers and provide more than 40,000 jobs. 

"It's going to mean a lot to Larimer County, Weld County and Boulder County," he said.

He expects it to pass the Senate next week.


By: Rebecca Powell