Op-EdAppeared in InsideSources on June 11, 2020By Dina Rubio

PPP Helps Keep Local Restaurants’ Doors Open

I was taught the importance of hard work at an early age.

As a Nicaraguan immigrant, my family fled the Sandinista regime in 1981 to give me a better life in the United States. From my early beginnings, I saw what a socialist country looked like, and ran full speed in the other direction toward the freedom of a quality American education.

After graduating from Florida International University, I married an immigrant from Cuba. We both aspired to become business owners. Our dream was realized as we worked hard, saved money and were able to buy a restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida.

As I write this, our entire country is in crisis.

The U.S. unemployment rate is sitting at 13.3 percent, the highest since the Great Depression. We are losing about 23,000 jobs every hour of every day. OpenTable estimates that nearly one-quarter of restaurants won’t reopen once the pandemic passes. However, my restaurant has been able to stay open thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program.

The PPP is a lifeline to businesses with 500 or fewer employees, providing forgivable loans for critical business expenses including payroll, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. This helps businesses retain employees and keep the lights on. Since the PPP launched in early April, 4.4 million loans totaling more than $511 billion have been approved.

When the program was created, the loan forgiveness deadline was eight weeks. This seemed appropriate at the time, but today many small-business owners are nearing the eight-week deadline while their businesses remain closed or at least partly closed.

For example, my business is limited to 50 percent capacity under Florida law. I can’t be expected to carry 100 percent payroll with half of my businesses legally shut down.  That revenue scenario doesn’t make sense to anyone — at least not to anyone who wants to stay in business.

President Trump understood the urgency of this issue and worked to address it.

In mid-May, he and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin held a meeting with restaurant industry leaders from all over the country who underscored the urgent need for a loan forgiveness extension. The president stated that such an extension would be “very reasonable,” and Mnuchin said he was working with Congress on a “technical fix.”

Congress did its job by passing the PPP Flexibility Act.

This bipartisan bill expands the loan forgiveness period from eight weeks to 24 weeks, reduces the requirement that 75 percent of the loan be spent on payroll to 60 percent, and extends the program through the end of this year.

While not perfect, this is precisely the kind of common-sense, bipartisan bill the small-business community needs to get back on our feet. Last Friday, Trump signed the PPP Flexibility Act into law.

Challenging times don’t scare me and they shouldn’t scare you. Just like my husband and I fled socialist countries, renovated a 60-year-old building in Florida, and created an ambient restaurant, we will come out of this crisis stronger than ever.

With new legislation that strengthens the Paycheck Protection Program, we will defeat this invisible enemy and our country as a whole will bounce back.

Dina Rubio is the owner of a restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a member of Job Creators Network.