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Small businesses, restaurants teetering on brink of closure awaiting relief bill

Updated: Dec. 25, 2020 at 3:33 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The bill designed to provide relief to struggling businesses and individual Americans is currently sitting on President Donald Trump’s desk awaiting his signature.

Trump shocked both parties when he threatened to veto the bill demanding the individual payment be increased to $2,000 and the extraneous funding for non-coronavirus relief be removed from the omnibus legislation.

The delay in relief is unwelcome news to businesses – especially small businesses – that are teetering on the brink of closure. Frank Knapp with the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce says those small businesses cannot wait for a new administration for relief.

“They are the ones that are the life blood of our local economies,” Knapp said. “We are losing them and, unfortunately, what is happening is we have these big corporations that are coming in to replace the small businesses. This is not what this country needs.”

Data collected by SCSBCC shows not only are new business licenses at a 40-year low but hundreds of small businesses have had to close their doors this year.

“We all love our small businesses. This is our opportunity to help them survive. We need to move on this and we need to move quickly,” Knapp said. “We are heading for a really big and bad recession but all we need is the president to sign this COVID relief bill.”

Knapp says the relief bill is well overdue, but he is pleased that there is a finished product that can help save businesses. However, more dangerous than a veto from the president is the threat of a pocket veto at the end of the congressional session.

A pocket veto is a political maneuver where the president neither signs nor vetoes the bill. After 10 days the legislation would become law without the president’s signature – unless congress has adjourned for the session, in which case the bill does not become law and congress has to pass it again. Starting the process over again in January could derail the current negotiations, ultimately delaying relief even longer.

Jeff Diehl is the director of operations for the Charleston Hospitality Group. The group owns several local restaurants including Toast, Eli’s Table and Queology. He says every day relief is delayed another business shuts down.

“I don’t know that people know how serious it is and who is out of money. It’s tremendously serious,” Diehl said. “We get three or four phone calls a week of people asking us to take over their restaurants, to bail them out.”

Diehl says restaurants are in desperate need of more money to get people re-employed. However, if the relief bill is signed, he says it is already too late.

“There’s an additional six weeks before the money even gets there. If today they passed the bill, the first money doesn’t get here until Valentine’s day,” Diehl said. “Everyday somebody runs out of money, literally every day. You can only cut so much.”

The legislation is imperfect, but Diehl says, at this point, any relief is welcome relief.

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