Hirono Joins in Proposal to Ease Economic Disruption for Small Businesses Due to COVID-19

March 20, 2020, 7:58 PM HST · Updated March 20, 10:51 PM
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US Sen. Mazie Hirono.

Legislation includes Hirono provisions to improve access to export promotion programs

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaiʻi) joined her Democratic colleagues on the Small Business Committee to introduce the COVID-19 RELIEF for Small Businesses Act, a comprehensive proposal to provide relief for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal enhances existing tools available to the Small Business Administration and creates new ones to expand the federal government’s capacity to bolster small businesses during this difficult time.

“We all recognize the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to come together as a community to respond. Social distancing, closures, and other measures are necessary to protect public health, but these same necessary measures will have a significant negative impact on Hawaiʻi’s small businesses. They need our support during these challenging times. The federal government must play an active role in supporting these businesses and their employees, and this proposal demonstrates the seriousness with which Committee Democrats are pursuing relief. I will continue to fight alongside my colleagues to enact these provisions as quickly as possible,” said Senator Hirono.

The proposal is comprehensive, with provisions to create a “recovery grant” program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, to provide additional funding for local resource partners like Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and SCORE that support these businesses, and to provide relief for businesses through SBA’s 7(a), 504, and Microloan programs—which last year in Hawaii supported more than $51.7 million in loans for local businesses.

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Senator Hirono is a strong supporter of SBA’s programs for small businesses and earlier this year, in February, visited Morning Glass Coffee and Café, a woman-owned business supported by Hawaii SBDC’s Oahu business center.

 The COVID-19 RELIEF for Small Businesses Act also includes temporary fee waivers for SBA’s export promotion loan programs, which include the Export Express, Export Working Capital, and International Trade loan programs. In July 2019, Senator Hirono introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to waive these fees for veteran business owners and their spouses.

Separately, the proposal also includes the Small Business Debt Relief Act, which Senator Hirono introduced earlier this week with Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) earlier this week to provide loan deferrals for small businesses with government-backed loans through the SBA.

Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Angus King (I-Maine) also cosponsored the bill.

More details about the COVID-19 RELIEF for Small Businesses Act can be found on the Small Business Committee’s website.

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