The second wave of the coronavirus has officially hit Los Angeles, with the county seeing an average infection rate of more than 2,000 new cases per day. And as retail heads into what is typically the busiest and most essential shopping season of the year, the unfortunate news is particularly unwelcome.
California Congressman Ted Lieu spoke with Sourcing Journal about the challenges facing his district’s retailers this holiday season, and whether a change in administration—and new federal aid—could help resuscitate the retail sector.
“It’s clear to me that until we can suppress the virus, our economy is never going to get back to normal,” he said. Record cases nationwide, and in his home state, will undoubtedly have an impact at retail as they continue to surge unabated. But Rep. Lieu believes more conservative conduct over the Thanksgiving holiday could help contain the spread, and he urged consumers to stay home and follow social distancing protocols.
While last week’s news of a potentially effective vaccine from Pfizer has buoyed spirits, the impacts of a medical breakthrough won’t be felt until well into the new year. In the meantime, the congressman said, legislators must intervene to help flagging businesses survive the holidays.
“The first thing that I think government needs to do at the federal level is to pass a second stimulus package,” Rep. Lieu said, adding that the House of Representatives has offered up two plans since spring’s CARES Act—one for $3.4 trillion, and a second, revised version for $2.2 trillion—that have been the subject of prolonged negotiations for months.
“The White House and the U.S. Senate twiddled their thumbs for most of that time and didn’t do anything,” he added. “We actually have to get one of those two packages signed into law for the American people.” In addition to including directives for long-awaited second stimulus checks to supplement individual incomes, the proposed plans contain further provisions to help bolster small businesses.
The California legislator acknowledged that the initial Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans ended up being difficult for some businesses to access if they did not have existing relationships with mainstream banks. To rectify those inequities in access to funding, the second bill contains a “tranche of funding specifically for the community development of financial institutions and non-mainstream banks,” Rep. Lieu said.
While he is hopeful, based on the assurance of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that the package will be approved “before the end of the year,” the California congressman added that president-elect Biden’s swearing in Jan. 20 will kick the process into overdrive if legislators, and the current administration, continue to stall.
“If for whatever reason, Donald Trump can’t get it done in a lame duck session,” he said, “I’m confident we will get it done with President Biden.”