Prioritizing Transparency and Accountability in the Next Stimulus Package

By Jonathan Lines 

I feel immensely disappointed in the ways the federal government has failed to fully bolster the American people and the economy throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Too busy playing politics, they’ve delayed voting on additional stimulus packages and reauthorizing the Paycheck Protection Program, which could be worth as much as $257 billion. This money would not only aid individuals and families in dire need of financial support through this prolonged crisis, but also small- and medium- sized businesses who have long struggled to stay afloat, including my own. For the past 34 years, I have owned and operated a roofing business in Arizona. We benefitted greatly from the PPP loan we received earlier this year but remain concerned about our outlook as we continue to endure financial stress and uncertainty. 

However, I’d argue that we are some of the luckier ones. Regardless of the pandemic, people still need their roofs repaired and insulation installed. Small businesses—hallmarks of Main Streets throughout our country—will not emerge from this crisis unscathed, as I anticipate we will. The assistance they ought to have received from earlier PPP payments may have helped, but much more is needed to reinvigorate our economy and the businesses that are the backbone of our local communities. 

Though the stimulus packages and the PPP have provided valuable lifelines to individuals and the business community at large, any reauthorization must be accompanied with reforms to increase transparency and accountability in government spending. Without these critical reforms, larger companies and corporations will continue to take advantage of funds intended to support smaller- and medium- sized businesses, specifically those who are not equipped to endure the financial hardships brought upon by a crisis of this severity. 

The initial PPP loan program put $349B on the line. Effectively delineating that amount of money was no easy task – and unfortunately, it wasn’t seal proof, either. The prospect of what was essentially free money, intended to bolster businesses suffering most throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t go unnoticed by larger companies, corporations and chains. Additionally, a number of foreign entities benefitted as well – the Project On Government Oversight, along with the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, found that millions of dollars from the PPP went to Chinese state-owned companies

This negligence worked directly to the detriment of smaller and independent businesses just like mine, many of which found it difficult to navigate the process created to secure a loan in the first place. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country have had to shutter their doors, unlikely to open them ever again. Alongside these closed doors comes crushed hopes and dreams and a distrust in the government entities who are supposed to support good, contributory American citizens in times of crisis. 

If— when—the Paycheck Protection Program is reauthorized, it must be accompanied by reforms that increase transparency and reduce fraud, abuse, and waste of its funds. These reforms are paramount to the survival of America’s small- and medium-sized businesses and all taxpayers should demand them.

Jonathan Lines is a Yuma County Supervisor-elect and the vice president and general manager of Lines and Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation. 


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