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Hoosier senator sees opportunity for Congress to help more businesses get back on their feet
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Hoosier senator sees opportunity for Congress to help more businesses get back on their feet

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VALPARAISO — The phased reopening of businesses across Indiana following the peak of COVID-19 cases doesn't mean companies no longer will need government assistance to financially get back on their feet after being shut down, in some cases, for more than two months.

That's the message of U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., as he travels the state this week, including a stop Tuesday in Valparaiso, promoting his plan to take the popular federal Paycheck Protection Program "to the next level."

The Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty (RESTART) Act, sponsored by Young and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., would give businesses more time to spend their forgivable PPP loans and create a long-term borrowing program for businesses hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We know that Hoosiers like to work. We know Hoosiers want to work. And I know that Hoosier business owners are eager to pay their employees and allow their employees to get back to work," Young said. "With the RESTART Act that will be possible."

The first component of the legislation would allow businesses with revenue declines of at least 25% to spend their PPP funds over a 16-week period, instead of just eight weeks, since many businesses, such as restaurants, gyms and small retailers, are unlikely to see a quick return of their former customers.

"We know that PPP was meant to be a bridge to a reopening economy," Young said. "Many small businesses are going to require a longer bridge before consumer demand really picks up."

The second component, in effect, continues PPP into the future by allowing hard-hit businesses to borrow funds covering six months of payroll and authorizing the money to be paid back to the federal government over a seven-year period at low interest rates.

"I think it's pretty clear Congress is going to have to have some plans ready if the PPP monies are all utilized, and we're on track to deplete that allocation of money pretty soon," Young said. "We're going to have to replenish that with something. I think it's going to have to be a longer term program."

Young said his goal is build on the success of the Paycheck Protection Program, which he said has provided some 72,000 Indiana businesses more than $9.4 billion in forgivable loans, or an average of approximately $131,000 per company.

One of those businesses is Zimmer Biomet Hibbard, a medical device sales and distribution company located on Valparaiso's east side.

Owner Jeff Hibbard said thanks to a $236,000 PPP loan he secured through Peoples Bank, his company was able to keep his 18 full-time and six part-time employees on the payroll despite a 95% decline in sales due to hospitals focusing on COVID-19 at the height of the crisis.

"There were virtually no elective surgeries that were on," Hibbard said. "I never thought we'd see that day. I mean, we always said that we're kind of insulated. But that proved not to be true, unfortunately."

Young is optimistic that as senators hear similar PPP success stories in their states they'll back the RESTART Act as a means to get more businesses up and running like they were before the coronavirus struck.

"We're not done yet," Young said. "This has a lot of support."

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