Alabama Sen. Jones pitches plan to help businesses pay workers

Current Work | Mon, 03/23/2020 at 11:42 AM

FOX10 — Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) took to the Senate floor Friday to pitch a plan to help small businesses continue to pay workers.

The new fund, which Jones is calling the “Small Business Lifeline Fund,” would offer small businesses funding for up to 75 percent of their payroll costs over the next three months. It would mandate that no more than $5,000 go to any single employee.

The idea, Jones said, is to keep small companies solvent during the coronavirus crisis.

“I’ve heard from a lot of folks who are scared to death, working folks who are now at home,” he said. “They are not telecommuting because their jobs are not like that.”

Under the senator’s proposal, the money would come interest-free, and businesses would have five years to pay it back.

Jones said it would reduce the layoffs and furloughs that already have begun to rock the economy. He said “Main Street” retailers and restaurants are particularly vulnerable.

“They’re gonna go bankrupt without customers, as folks stay home and practice the social distancing that we know we have to do,” he said.

Jones called his proposal a “work in progress.” Perhaps, he said, some loans could be forgiven outright. He said he envisions the Small Business Administration running the program.

Jones said the money would flow directly to payroll companies, which process employee pay for 40 percent of the nation’s businesses – disproportionately small ones.

“It makes this quick. It makes it efficient,” he said. “It uses the infrastructure and the pipelines that already exist without having to go back and reinvent or create a new whole set of dynamics that may or may not work.”

Jones said the plan also would help the 26 million people who work for themselves.

In addition, Jones plugged the States Achieve Medicaid Expansion Act, of SAME Act. The bill, introduced last month, would offer incentives to states to expand the Medicaid program. Alabama is among a handful of states that declined to go along with a provision in the Affordable Care Act to cover more people in the health program for low-income residents.

A spokesman for Jones said the senator has not yet drafted legislation for his small business payroll idea. She said it could be offered a standalone bill or part of a larger package.

(Brendan Kirby, FOX10)