One year ago, the coronavirus looked like a death sentence for many small businesses. Owners and workers alike were facing deep uncertainty as state governments around the country shuttered local economies in an attempt to slow the spread and save lives. Over the last year, I’ve spoken with countless Floridians who’ve lost loved ones to the virus or feared for their personal means in the midst of great economic uncertainty.
Though we cannot bring back those we’ve tragically lost since the pandemic’s first outbreak, we were thankfully able to pull millions of small businesses back from the brink, restoring millions’ economic security and livelihood.
My Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) — an unprecedented system of fully refundable loans to small- and mid-sized businesses, available so long as they keep their employees on payroll — has defended American workers who have already lost much. Across America, the program helped save up to 55 million jobs, with an average business size of just 20 employees.
The PPP has been a special success along the Gulf Coast and across the rest of Florida. More than 430,000 businesses in our state received forgivable PPP loans, and 3 million jobs have been saved as a result. In particular, the program has provided critical aid to minority-owned and underserved businesses, who risked mass closures if not for the rapid and effective implementation of the program.
But even more important that the statistics detailing the PPP’s success are the stories of the individual lives it’s changed. Throughout the past year, I’ve heard from workers around the state who were able to keep receiving a paycheck, retain their jobs, and continue providing for themselves and their families after their company received a loan.
Even as public health lockdowns kept business depleted, they were able to persevere, the PPP often serving as a vital lifeline. These businesses play an integral role in their towns and cities, with many offering critical goods and services to Fort Myers, Naples, and other Florida communities for generations.
Last month, I spent time visiting communities around the state to speak with Floridians about their experiences throughout the pandemic. In Fort Myers, I was especially grateful for the opportunity I had to tour the Edison and Ford Winter Estates and speak with its care-takers, who received a PPP loan that allowed them to survive the lockdowns. They are far from alone in the region; others, like the Military Heritage Museum in Punta Gorda, have been able to continue offering extraordinary resources for veterans thanks to the loans they received.
As Floridians along the Gulf Coast and across the rest of our state keep fighting to beat back the coronavirus, we all know there’s still work to be done. The PPP will continue to play a critical role in ensuring that Gulf Coast communities in our state withstand this moment and can keep flourishing for many, many years to come.