“I would be remiss if I didn’t start by talking about the current state of our country. There is a system of racism, and this has pulled back a scab that has never healed. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and my parents grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, during the civil rights movement.”
Second District Congresswoman began her remarks for the Hampton Roads Chamber’s “Conversation with Congresswoman Luria” by addressing the protests and riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “Protesters are being heard. I condemn the damage to property and looting and the few bad actors who are taking advantage.”
The Conversation then shifted to the original topic, COVID-19 business recovery. Darius Davenport of Crenshaw, Ware & Martin helped facilitate the virtual meeting as the co-chair for the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Committee. Davenport asked what long term recovery looks like for America.
“There are so many things that are uncertain. We don't know if this is seasonal, and we'll have another wave. Fortunately, we did not have a huge surge, and we’ve maintained adequate access to care. There is so much unknown on the medical and healthcare side of it. We want to emphasize personal health and safety. There are no specific OSHA guidelines. Part of it is science; part of it is public health; a part is innovation and ingenuity on the part of business owners and the public sector to keep the risk minimal and let work go on. It will take all of us to be effective in moving forward and keep healthy.”
Hampton Roads President & CEO Bryan Stephens asked about the two pieces of legislation Luria has introduced to assist businesses dealing with COVID-19 shortfalls. “The PPP (Payroll Protection Program) improvement act answered some of the questions left out of the original PPP. This extends the period of the loan to 24 weeks from the original 8 weeks. And adjusts the 75/25 split for payroll/overhead to 60/40 to help businesses with high overhead costs."
Congresswoman Luria went on to discuss the second piece of legislation that did not pass. “The Truth Act would require the SBA to publish the names and amounts of all loans over $2 million. It did not pass the House. I think it is important for taxpayers to know where our money is going.”
Stephens also asked about the concern for liability facing some business owners as they reopen. Luria again mentioned there are no clear guidelines from OSHA. “I think that is the first step before you can say whether someone can be held accountable.”
Georgie Marquez, Chair for the Norfolk Division Board and small business owner of Andre Marquez Architects, asked about reimbursement for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) purchases and other expenses required to make a workplace safe for employees. She also asked for more clarity on the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan) advance payment. Luria did not have specific answers but agreed to work with Marquez and other small business owners to help get them what they need. “We will follow up. We have created a small business hotline to capture specific questions.”
Kasia Grzelkowski, President/CEO of VersAbility Resources, asked about assistance for disabled workers on Medicaid. The current act does not designate her staff as essential healthcare workers, so her company can not get the funding or supplies they need to assist those with disabilities. “The disability community is not being included in the relief program.”
Congresswoman Luria assured Grzelkowski she heard her. "I will make sure we reach out to you to discuss more and make sure we advocate for your needs.”
Luria told the 100 participants she did not vote in favor of the HEROES act. (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act). This is the stimulus package following the CARES act. “HEROES act passed the House two weeks ago. It provides $3 trillion for additional funding, has not gone anywhere in the Senate. State and local governments have a lot of challenges due to revenue loss based on COVID-19, but this had a lot of superfluous things that did not belong. I voted against it.”
Luria said she is optimistic there will be a stimulus 4 package at the end of this month or the beginning of July.
This "Conversation with Congresswoman Luria" is part of the Hampton Roads Chamber's efforts to be an impactful advocate and powerful economic partner. The Norfolk Division Board hosted the meeting to bring the concerns of local business leaders straight to Congress.