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Government works despite divide

Posted by: George Swift on Tuesday, July 7, 2020

As we have just completed our nation’s 244th Fourth of July Celebration, this is a good time to pause and reflect on our nation’s system of government. In 2020, we are going through extremely difficult times. There’s the COVID-19 pandemic, the crash of our economy, the oil crisis, global issues, the Black Lives Matter movement, and a sharp political divide in our country.

The foundation is there in our United States Constitution to resolve these issues. The genius of the founders established three branches or government: Executive, Judicial, and Legislative, with checks and balances. Perhaps they did not foresee the super powerful influence that money would have on our campaigns and the effects of thousands of lobbyists.

As much in disarray the system seems to be, we can have confidence that ultimately the system works, many times in a positive way.

For example, the recent Louisiana legislature just completed the 2020 regular session followed by a special legislative session which ended June

30. The regular session was paused due to the coronavirus and a large number of the public were kept out of the capitol by health and safety procedures. Some legislators got the virus, and one House member passed away.

The lack of public and large amounts of lobbyists may have restricted input to the legislators. Committee meetings and sessions of the House and Senate were streamed live giving most all who wanted to view the proceedings the ability to do so.

A number of bills were passed that will enhance our state’s business climate and several of those await action by the Governor. The Louisiana Resilient Commission was formed by Governor John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Economic Recovery Task Force was formed by Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder. Both groups came up with a list of legislative solutions to get the Louisiana economy up and running again. Many of the recommendations were acted on in either the regular or special session. Other items will probably be presented in a special session this fall.

One example of a positive program is the $300 million Louisiana Main Street Grant Program.This program, as directed by the legislature, will be administered by Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder. The launch date for this program will be July 28. Eligibility criteria and FAQs can be found at www.treasury.la.gov/ mainstreet.

Basically this is a program for small businesses with fewer than 50 employees who did not access any of the federal programs through the SBA. This program will provide grants up to $15,000 if a small business can demonstrate loss of income due to the pandemic. $40 million will be set aside for women, minority, and veteran-owned businesses.

On the federal legislative level, despite rigid party line positions, the US Senate and the US House voted to extend the Paycheck Protection Program until August 8. The PPP was set to expire June 30. The SBA’s latest report shows more than 72,000 loans were approved in Louisiana totaling more than $7.3 billion. More than $129 billion in funding remains in the fund.

Both the state and federal programs offer an opportunity for small businesses to receive financial help. These programs are designed to keep the businesses open so they can continue to employ their staff.

Small businesses account for almost half of the nation’s GDP and for about 53% of total employees in the US. Only about 40% of small businesses are profitable, so it is tough.

State and federal legislators should be applauded for supporting these sources of funding for our struggling businesses.

So despite turmoil and with many issues yet to be resolved, the July 4th holiday is a good time to pause and take stock of our nation and how we can do our part to make this nation all that it can be “with Liberty and Justice for All.”

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