I am a small business owner. I’ve been in the car business for 50 years, and I’d like to think I’ve seen it all — recessions, record gas prices, high and low interest rates and now a global pandemic.
When government mandates forced small business owners to close their doors and suspend all business activities, I knew their pain firsthand. “Two weeks to slow the spread” turned into two more weeks, then two more months, then just a while longer until ICU utilization slows down.
After more than a year of lockdowns, some businesses are beginning to reopen and find their footing as COVID-19 cases decrease and distributing vaccinations by the masses makes enormous progress.
For many businesses, simply turning the lights back on and restocking inventory won’t be the fix to their problems. Live music venues, concert promoters, movie theatres, and the entertainment industry were the first businesses to close and will be among the last to reopen.
To support these venues, I introduced the Save our Stages Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would deliver more than $15 billion through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program within the Small Business Administration.
The bill was signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 27, and for a time it felt as if help may finally be on the way.
Sadly, after nearly four months not a single dollar from the SVOG has been disbursed to small business owners who were promised relief from their government. Every month I’ve written to the SBA urging them to prioritize this program and help our taxpaying citizens in need.
Four letters went unanswered with countless questions ignored by President Biden’s hand-picked Administrator Isabelle Guzman. Had these questions been answered or my concerns recognized, perhaps the SVOG application portal would not have collapsed after being open for just two hours on April 8. The portal remains closed this week with no update from the SBA on when it will reopen.
Having lived 50 years in Main Street America, I know that “customer service matters.” It is past time that the federal government, from Congress to the Biden Administration, recognizes that the American people are our most important customers, and it is our duty to provide them with the services their taxpayer dollars demand.
With each passing day President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer appear more determined to pass partisan legislation and satisfy the thirst of their progressive base while small business owners and hardworking moms and dads languish, waiting for the help they were promised over 16 weeks ago.
In the meantime, my work on the SVOG will continue until the President and his political appointees do what’s necessary to deliver on the promise we made to the entertainment industry.
Roger Williams of Austin is a U.S. Congressman representing District 25, which includes Johnson County.