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Indiana Sen. Braun on COVID-19’s Impact, CARES Act’s Retail Benefits: On The Hill

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Brands and retailers across the country have already faced blows to their businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as they move forward into what could be months of uncertainty, they should be looking to newly implemented government measures to steady them through the turbulence.

That’s according to Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who spoke with Sourcing Journal last week for a socially distanced interview about the implications of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on retail.

When asked how the measures of the legislation—like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), along with a potential new influx of cash currently being hammered out in Congress—could help America’s embattled businesses, he reminded struggling SMBs, “You’re not alone.”

Speaking from his wife’s retail shop in Indiana, which was forced to close as part of Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s directive for non-essential businesses, the senator said Main Street shops have been “disproportionately impacted” by the shutdowns.

“I think we’re all going to be willing to see what we can do to make sure that we don’t lose that demand for the products, and the supply to satisfy that demand,” he said.

One way to keep those cogs turning is through selective re-openings in less impacted areas, and another is through creative business measures, Sen. Braun said. Services like curbside pickup can offer consumers a safe way to shop while keeping goods moving off store shelves.

“I think that kind of smart risk is going to be the solution,” he added.

The CARES Act offers forgivable business loans through the PPP that will allow businesses with fewer than 500 employees to draw 2.5 times their monthly payroll spend to keep staff employed and rents paid.

“Government caused the economic calamity because we didn’t know what the virus was going to be like,” Senator Braun said.

Speaking on whether a deferment of tariffs on China-made goods could come into play as a way of alleviating the strain on American brands.

Though he’s never favored tariffs, “the dance we’ve been doing with [China]” was yielding results before the onset of the coronavirus, the senator said, addressing whether a deferment of tariffs on China-made goods could come into play as a way of alleviating the strain on American brands.

“I think that the whole idea of hedging our bets in terms of supply chain in China has been happening, and I think that’s smart,” he added.

When it comes to other global supply chain partners like Bangladesh, which has faced mass cancellations on orders from its U.S. and European partners, the senator urged brands to think about future ramifications to damaging these relationships.

“I think you do not cancel orders, you keep them in place, maybe you extend the delivery a little bit,” he said. He encouraged brands and their suppliers to work “on a handshake basis, or in a way where you trust one another,” to weather the current conditions.

“I think that countries like Bangladesh that are trying to rise and to be more economically viable, I think it’s going to be mostly dependent upon how quickly we can start rolling the economy back to normal,” he said.

“The whole world depends upon what we do here,” he added. “We are the country that’s dealing with now the epicenter of fighting the disease.”

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