Merski supporting ‘PA HEALS’ legislation

ERIE, April 27 – Calling it a good way to power up small, locally owned businesses that have been failed by rapidly depleted loan programs, state Rep. Bob Merski is supporting “PA HEALS” – a package of bills aimed at creating new funding opportunities for the small businesses that create jobs and drive the local economy.

Merski, D-Erie, said he is co-sponsoring PA HEALS to ensure the neighborhood businesses key to Erie’s vitality are there when the economy reopens.

“Small businesses truly are the heart of our local economy and benefit our community in unique ways large, big-box stores can’t. Studies show neighborhood businesses circulate more money back into the local economy; employ more people per unit of sales; retain more employees during economic downturns; and are associated with higher community income and lower poverty levels,” Merski said.

“For these reasons, it’s obvious that getting our small businesses back up and running as soon as the economy reopens benefits our entire community. Unfortunately, our small business owners have been trying to tap into funding streams that run dry before they even get to the well. The PA HEALS package of bills proposes innovative funding solutions to revive our small businesses and nonprofits now, so they’ll be back to benefit the community when the economy reopens.”

Merski said the bill package includes measures that would:

  • authorize $100 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to provide 0% interest loans to smaller, local businesses shut out of the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Loan Program.
  • use a portion of the fund to support nonprofits that provide residents critical services such as food, health care and housing.
  • create a grant program reserved for businesses with 30 or fewer employees and earning less than $3 million a year.
  • create a new microloan program delivering up to $15,000 with 0% interest and no payments required for the first year – reserved only for our communities’ smallest businesses.
  • make biotech businesses eligible for the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Loan Program so they can secure no-cost loans to continue developing critical medical devices and drugs.

The legislation stands for “PA Helping Employers And Labor Succeed” and builds on the Democrats’ Plan for PA, which starts with good pay, real benefits and workplace protection. A main focus of the legislation is ensuring investments remain in the community and don’t go to out-of-state investors.