President Donald Trump not only ignored the needs of small business, his Administration actively made things worse for those of us who own small businesses. There were times when it seemed as if senior members of his Administration were actually antagonistic to small businesses.
Of course, Trump’s biggest failure was his refusal to develop a national, coordinated policy to fight the virus, refusal to respect science and experts, and inability to provide stable leadership that could have brought the country together to fight this national threat.
But, in particular, as a small business advocate, I have watched in dismay as Trump and his Administration have ignored the needs of small business and put stumbling blocks in our way:
1. Trump used his bully pulpit to help big corporations, not to save small businesses
I remember how I felt when I heard President Trump say the following: “We have to save these companies. These are companies that weren’t in trouble three weeks ago, and now they’re in trouble because of what happened.” I was angry and disappointed. Why? Because Trump was talking only about big corporations—airlines, banks. (They got a half trillion dollar bailout fund!) I listened and listened over weeks but never heard Trump raise his voice with such concern or empathy for small businesses or the self-employed. He just didn’t seem to care about us.
2. The Trump Administration botched the roll-out of the PPP
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was widely viewed as an execution disaster. The banks that were to administer the program got last-minute, inconsistent, and confusing guidance from Trump’s Treasury Department. The Trump Administration allowed banks to play favorites, giving their funds to their biggest corporate customers first, shutting out small businesses. It was a mess.
3. Called for loans, not grants, for small businesses
While the airline industry got $27 billion in mostly grants, small businesses were being told their only lifeline was taking on debt in an uncertain world. In a letter sent to me, Trump’s Treasury Department defended this reliance on loans saying, “A forgiven loan is essentially a grant.” Really? When the provisions at the time of applying for the loan was that forgiveness was based on using 75% of the funds on payroll in the next 8 weeks, and you have no idea when or whether you’ll reopen? Trump’s appointees may not know the difference between a grant and a loan, but small business owners do.
4. Made PPP forgiveness funds essentially taxable
This act alone shows how little the Trump Administration cares about small business. Congress specifically legislated that PPP loan forgiveness funds were NOT to be taxed. What did the Trump Administration do? It unilaterally decided to disallow exemptions for expenses used for forgiveness. In other words, if your small business had $100,000 forgiven because you spent that money on wages, those $100,000 in wages ARE NO LONGER TAX DEDUCTIBLE. You now have $100,000 more in taxable income. Over 100 business organizations have urged the Trump Administration to reverse this heartless and unnecessary decision that clearly goes against Congressional intent.
5. Reduced the one small grant allowed
The only “grant” for small companies was a measly $10,000 for advances for EIDL loans. The Trump Administration lowered this to a grant of only $1,000 for each employee hired, significantly lowering the very little amount of grant money available to the smallest businesses.
6. Unnecessarily complicated PPP forgiveness process
Business groups, including conservative groups such as bankers and accounting associations, time after time urged reducing the program’s red tape for small businesses, estimating the Trump Administration rules cost small companies thousands of unnecessary dollars.
When I see so many small businesses shuttered for good, when I see so many Main Streets hollowed out, I am angry. Incredibly angry. Most of these small businesses did not have to die. And that is why I am urging small business owners—and those who care about small businesses—to vote for Joe Biden for President.
Small business owner, author, columnist, and advocate