Like many of you, I'm working remotely these days. The concept of social distancing is nothing new for those who operate in the legislative arena. Driving to Pierre each week during session seems like solid proof that the entire state wanted all that "sausage making" to be as far from the rest of society as possible.
We work to convey your business concerns to policymakers at the local, state and federal level.
Some lobbyists describe our time in Pierre as winter camp – a phrase that usually is met with a smile. In Pierre, most public policy advocates work remotely, without an office. However, we also work together with other lobbyists and legislators. In the state capitol, individuals chat in hallways and side-rooms, over lunch or late night dinners to communicate about proposed bills.
Working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic is different, yet the same. We work alone, but we collaborate using Zoom, TeamViewer, GoToMeetings, Microsoft Teams and more. These platforms provide for real-time communication with co-workers, Chamber members and our elected officials.
While the Chamber has always worked to be a bridge between our members and elected officials, during this pandemic we have stepped up our efforts. The Chamber has facilitated real-time communication with elected officials through conference calls or video chats – covering topics from the details of the stimulus packages to how to best operate a business within the changing parameters set by state and local governments.
We are fortunate to be well represented in Washington D.C. by Senators Thune and Rounds and Representative Johnson. Shortly after Congress passed the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Senator Thune spoke with our members about the provisions in the legislation that would be available for main street small business.
In summary, the CARES Act provides:
• Direct Assistance to Individuals – provides up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and an additional $500 per child. The payments begin phasing out for individuals and couples with incomes of $75,000 and $150,000, respectively.
• The Paycheck Protection Program – enables small businesses and self-employed individuals to maintain payroll through forgivable, federally-guaranteed loans.
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – expands unemployment benefits to those who would otherwise be ineligible, including self-employed individuals and independent contractors.
• The Phase II legislation also provided self-employed individuals with refundable tax credits for family and sick leave, covering those who are required to quarantine or are caring for a child who is sick or whose school or child-care facility has closed.
• The Employee Retention Tax Credit – provides employers with a 50 percent refundable payroll tax credit for wages paid to employees, including those who are furloughed or facing reduced hours.
• Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Loan Advance – provide loans of up to $2 million as well as a loan advance of up to $10,000 to cover a wide range of expenses. The emergency loan advance would not have to be repaid.
The Chamber's public policy team will continue to work to convey your business concerns to policymakers at the local, state and federal level. We encourage you to contact our Business Resource Hotline to share specifics on the challenges you are facing in your business or industry. You can access the hotline at supportsiouxfalls.biz, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (605) 373-2005.
Together, we will work innovatively to move our city forward.