Chattanooga Business Owners React To New COVID Stimulus Bills

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Republican Senator from Maine, Susan Collins, said it was a “Christmas miracle” as Washington lawmakers unveiled yet another iteration of the long-awaited COVID-19 stimulus bill on Monday.

This comes after a previous bipartisan bill worth around $900 billion and a White House plan that included $600 stimulus checks were both floated on Capitol Hill.

This new plan splits into two separate bills – one dedicated to funding for paycheck protection and unemployment insurance, and the other for business liability as well as state and local governments.

But Elizabeth Saint-Clair, owner of Charlie’s BBQ and Bakery in Chattanooga, says that this new plan just doesn’t do enough.

“We’re not too inclined on the bill that they’re proposing right now. One, we probably won’t receive any more money and the paycheck protection is a loan. If at any point you don’t use the funds specifically or they don’t like the way you’ve used the funds, you’re stuck in another loan – and that just hurts you more than it did to begin with,” says Saint-Clair.

Saint-Clair says that the COVID stimulus bill as it stands doesn’t do enough for small business owners such as herself, saying that although a paycheck protection program is needed – it should be in the form of a grant, rather than a loan.

“It needs to be a grant program, and it needs to go to the small guys. It doesn’t need to go to someone who owns a five-chain restaurant with five hundred employees. It needs to go to the operators who have ten employees, twenty employees, thirty employees. We’re the ones that are truly struggling to hang on.”

She says that support for small businesses is especially important in Chattanooga.

“Chattanooga is built on small business. That’s what makes us cool – that’s what brings the tourism in, that’s what helps our economy. We employ ten people in the local community, and so for us it’s heartbreaking to think payroll to payroll, how are we going to make it?”

Currently, it’s unclear if congressional leaders will bring the bills up for consideration.

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