Schumer Talks Stimulus With BK Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer

U.S. Senator and newly minted Majority Leader Charles Schumer joined Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Randy Peers on Friday, Feb 19 to speak about the challenges of Brooklyn’s 62,000 struggling small businesses and discuss the federal stimulus package being debated in Congress.

Peers quickly summarized the dire situation that most small business owners and restaurant owners are facing after the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. 

According to the Commerce surveys, he said “Eighty-one percent of our small businesses report a decline in annual revenue, 85 percent laid off some of their employees, one-third owe back rent, 51 percent have taken on more debt just to survive, though the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has helped. And as you know, our restaurants have been hit particularly hard, as well our entertainment and tourism, and health and wellness.”

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer

Schumer, who’s a native Brooklynite, said he empathizes with small business owners and has been fighting hard to secure more funding for them in the stimulus.

“I have just automatic in my blood, in my bones, sympathy for small business people because of my dad,” said Schumer, “My dad struggled his whole life. He had a little exterminating business, it was on Atlantic Avenue. And he would pace the floors Sunday nights because he hated going to work Monday morning.”

Schumer went on to talk about the first and second COVID relief bills that stated vaccines are free for all and promises to set up federal vaccine centers with few requirements nationally as well as in Brooklyn in the coming months. The sites will be manned by FEMA and National Guard workers, said Schumer. 

The second bill raises the stimulus payouts of $600 to $2,000. 

“The biggest thing we got in the bill was the PPP money, $325 billion, including another$15 billion for Save Our Stages, which I worked very hard for,” said Schumer. “Those of you in the arts know that our live and independent venues, movie theaters, Broadway, are all shut down. It was very hard to get the money for these because a lot of people said New York doesn’t need this. This is the arts. The arts are 10, 15 percent of our economy.” 

Programs like the PPP, SNAP, PELL grants, and rental relief were extended while funding was poured into the subways, restaurants, hospitals, museums, unemployment checks, funeral expenses, childcare, broadband access, and safely opening the schools, said Schumer. 

Schumer said the updated PPP is much more flexible, those who have had it before are still eligible to get it again, and even if rejected last time, a business owner can qualify for twice as much this time. Religious institutions and nonprofits are also eligible now for PPP.

“The Restaurants Act will pass,” confirmed Schumer.

As far as the initiative that calls for the federal government to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt, Schumer said that he’s working on appealing to President Joe Biden to push it through with an executive order. 

“Student debt is just killing our young people,” said Schumer. “We’re trying to get 10 million letters, calls, emails to Biden to do it. It affects minority communities, in particular, but it affects everybody, so please get on board with that.”