At Forbes’ first Small Business Summit on Friday, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said policies to financially support families and small businesses hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic should not be partisan issues.
“I feel this sense of urgency,” Booker said. “I’ve seen 9/11, I’ve seen Hurricane Sandy. Usually these crises sear away partisanship and we get to work. But right now, Mitch McConnell does not seem to want to put some of these bipartisan pieces of legislation on the floor.”
In a virtual interview, Booker explained what he thinks are the best next steps to sustain the American economy and boost the country’s most vulnerable businesses. Although he is proud of the bipartisan work done on the last Covid-19 relief package, he said minority businesses were largely left out.
“Minority businesses didn’t have banking relationships set up to really take part aggressively in the PPP program. Many of us moved to try to address that,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’ve stalled in getting the resources we need into our economy, specifically into a lot of our small businesses that are still struggling. We’ve had the head of the Federal Reserve call for more stimulus dollars. But yet, we have seen right now, not the level of commitment and partnership that we need in the United States Senate.”
In his work with Republicans across the aisle, Booker said he’s learned that both parties agree on the importance of getting small businesses better access to capital—with either low cost loans or outright grant money—and recognize the disadvantages that minority-owned businesses face.
“I’ve heard Republicans speak to this, that we have a terrible gap in our country around access to capital and business opportunities with Black businesses, Latino businesses, women-run businesses,” Booker said. “We really need to understand that helping those businesses get a fair shot and a fair shake, helps our overall economy as a whole.”
Booker said his number one policy priority is getting more stimulus checks out to working families, followed by proposing that community-based financial institutions, rather than banks, support small businesses with loans.
“Help those people who are struggling in a crisis like this,” he said. “It multiplies out in impact. They go to small businesses and they spend money. We are seeing a nightmare in our economy for people at the lower echelons, of our working families, and putting money out there, that would be my number one policy issue.”
Looking forward to the presidential election, Booker said the country would have “a very exciting period of small business growth” under Joe Biden’s leadership.
“If you’re a small business person, you want to see investments that will help create an opportunity for you,” Booker said. “Joe Biden, his policy team knows that this is something to reform and build upon, public private partnerships. He knows that the innovation in local government is something that the federal government should try to support and empower.”