MISSOULA — Montana's senators differ on how successful the first shot of stimulus money has been as Congress acted quickly to approve a second round of legislation to prop up the economy and offset the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With checks and business loans starting to arrive from the multi-trillion dollar CARES Act, Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester are anxious to get that money into checking accounts. However, they view the success of that roll out differently.
"Yeah I think we're going to need more help and more assistance. But it's been tremendous to see the outpouring of support that we've already experienced with these small businesses across Montana. These small businesses have these gut wrenching decisions," Sen. Daines said. They've literally had to shutter their doors, lay off their employees. And working with these local banks, who have rushed quickly to help these small businesses. It's a great story, providing help here one by one and getting these employees back on the payroll has been some great wins already."
"I don't want to be too harsh, but the truth is that we're in the middle of pandemic here, that this money was put forth two weeks ago, three weeks ago. Time flies. But the fact of the matter is businesses can't, they can't survive on their good looks. They have to have money," Sen. Tester said.
He added that the implementation of the program has been problematic, saying the Small Business Administration is "very, very slow" to get loan details to banks, which he says need time for their methodical process. Daines believes there are lessons to be learned that will improve arrival of the next measures.
"We'll take a first look at what worked, and what didn't work in this $2.2 trillion package," Sen. Daines told MTN News. "So whatever did work, well, let's double down on that. If something didn't work let's change it and make it better for the next round."
"Time is a ticking and a lot of these businesses don't have time on their side. We've got to get that money out. $2.2 trillion is a lot of money. And quite frankly it was set to really help the hospitality business right out of the chute and so to still be talking about this the middle of April is not acceptable. Let's just put it that way," Sen. Tester.
Reports indicate the Payroll Protection Program has already paid out nearly $300 billion with 1.3 million loans, with indications it could quickly reach its limit. The IRS has also launched a new website for individuals can track the status of their stimulus checks.