A small business relief package spearheaded by local legislators has gained significant momentum in recent weeks, with over one-third of the entire California Legislature now supporting the measure.
The bipartisan Senate Bill 74, otherwise known as the “Keep California Working Act,” was introduced by Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), who represents a sliver of east Ceres and the Hughson area, as well as Senator Ana Caballero (D-Salinas) and Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) and invests 10 percent of California’s projected windfall in grants for small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19.
During a press conference held on Jan. 6, Borgeas estimated the bill could provide $2.6 billion in relief aid to small businesses, but that the proposal would continue to be refined.
“We believe that during the pandemic, so many businesses have suffered and many have gone under, not to be brought back onto the market,” Borgeas said. “But we also know that with the recent lockdowns and vaccine distribution process that those that did survive have done so by a thread and they need support immediately.”
Distribution for SB 74 would be designated into six different tiers, depending on the impact COVID has had on small businesses in the region. Small businesses, defined by SB 74 as those with 100 employees or less, could receive anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000, depending on need. Borgeas described the legislation as “robust but equitable.”
As COVID cases and hospitalizations rise in Stanislaus County and the state, Borgeas said funding for businesses would not only help the economy, but potentially help to slow the spread of the virus. Locally, some businesses have ignored public health mandates in order to stay in business.
“I think we know that...when we ask restaurants and we ask small businesses and we ask folks in enterprise to shut down and reduce their level of service — and ultimately, level of income — we have a responsibility to step in and be responsible stewards of the economy as a whole,” he said. “...The idea is that if small businesses know that there is capital investment by California leadership in helping them get through this.”
While Valley organizations and small businesses in support of SB 74 joined the press conference to voice their support, other elected officials in the state Legislature have also signed onto the bill. A total of 40 legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, are now supporting the bill.
“Senator Borgeas and I represent overlapping districts covering the Central Valley, so we have seen first-hand how many lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 on so many levels,” said Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Ripon). “I’m happy to co-author SB 74 to help the Central Valley and the rest of California safely re-open the economy before it’s too late.”
For the current text of the Keep California Working Act, visit http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB74.