I’m happy that so much is returning to normal. More people are vaccinated, kids are getting back into classrooms and sports fans are attending some games. But for millions of small businesses, the pandemic is not close to over. My once-thriving daycare center is deeply in debt and barely scraping by. It’s infuriating that Congress just funded trillions of dollars of COVID-19 relief but did not extend the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses like mine.
I started a daycare business because I love kids and helping them develop. I also know how hard it is for working parents to find suitable child care. Our daycare is a business, but our passion is helping kids learn and grow while still letting them be kids. We are so proud that parents consider us an extension of their homes.
When Gov. Jim Justice issued the first stay-at-home order last year, we were terrified for our health, the safety of our kids and families, and our business. We understood the importance of reopening to care for essential workers’ children and why our new capacity limits were important to keeping everyone safe. We also understood that we were risking our health so that essential workers could do their important jobs, which made our jobs important also. But, financially, it was devastating.
Our business is like a tight-knit family. Keeping our employees on the payroll was one of our top priorities, even if that meant losing money. When the government launched the Paycheck Protection Program, we thought it would help us bridge the gap until things returned to normal. That was not the case.
You might remember the news stories of PPP abuse, when billionaires got government money to help their “small business“ sports teams, and big money went to chain restaurants and hotels. Naturally, the program ran out of money before reaching our little business. We were devastated, but we soldiered on, and when Congress funded PPP again, we received our first loan — 10 months after the first stay-at-home order. We were happy to get something, but it was not nearly enough to cover our costs, let alone our debts.
When we applied for a second PPP loan this year, it was less than half of our original loan, and it didn’t even cover one month’s payroll. PPP was slapping us in the face again.
These are the worst days for my daycare business since the pandemic started more than a year ago. We are out of money; we have no more savings and we are deeply in debt. It hurts our hearts that so many people think we are almost back to normal, and our members of Congress seem to have forgotten us. We did our part for the greater good, to keep essential workers working. Still, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., seem to have forgotten us while Congress debates how much to tax corporations and billionaires. Our elected leaders are certainly not prioritizing our small businesses, our families and our employees.
In a divided Congress, our little state’s two senators can make a big difference. Washington needs to understand that the stock market is not Main Street and small businesses at home still need more help. We need another round of PPP, with loan amounts that make a difference. And this PPP should be dedicated to the real small businesses, like ours — not the fake small businesses with hundreds of employees. It’s time for Congress to make us a priority.