Small Business Update and the Passing of John Lewis

 In Advocating, Coaching, Connecting, News

As COVID-19 continues to impact our health and business community, the Chamber is working with the City, County, and regional partners to put in place short-term, targeted measures to provide financial relief and business coaching for the small businesses who need it most.

· Locally, we are advocating for CARES programming that directs funding to small businesses as soon as possible. We seek local government support for initiatives like our Business Solutions Center and its accompanying efforts related to business coaching in areas such as general business operations, quality, resilience, and procurement.

· At a federal level, we are asking Congress to make the PPP loan forgiveness process easier for the smallest small businesses by automatically forgiving loans under $250,000.

· We also ask Congress to support those small businesses without established banking relationships. These businesses had difficulty accessing the PPP, and this difficultly can be overcome with the Recharge and Empower Local Innovation and Entrepreneurs Fund (RELIEF) for Main Street Act. This Act provides $50 billion to seed and scale local relief programs for small employers.

Please also remember, if we want our economy to continue to open, we have to be responsible. Wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing and stay at home if you feel ill [see our outstanding billboard messaging]. By coming together as a community and implementing thoughtful policy, small businesses can come out of this crisis.

While the newsletter content this week will reflect our July theme of healthcare, I wanted to take a moment to mourn the passing of civil rights icon Representative John Lewis. Much has been said of Lewis over the past several days and quite frankly my observations will pale in comparison to those of former presidents and civil rights leaders. But I also recognize that the Chamber, and our efforts with projects such as Leadership El Paso, have tried to emulate the efforts of Lewis.

El Paso has been graced to have diversity with opportunities that have and will continue to provide expanded horizons for people from every background. History tells us those opportunities have been hard won, and I am pleased that the Chamber has been a part of so many of those important victories for diversity and opportunity in El Paso.

In recognizing our core contributions to this community—connecting, coaching, advocating, and innovating for business—I appreciate that we have a duty to enhance opportunities and recognize that diversity is not only a value but a high bar for accomplishment that we will continue to pursue with vigor.

John Lewis stood for the values that make this country great: equity and opportunity for all. His mission was a lifelong one and provides me and my staff with lessons not just on upholding values, but for leadership as well. Lewis maintained his integrity in spite of violence and in spite of those that were convinced he had no place in civil society. I take pride in the fact in the fact that we strive toward the highest level of inclusion at the Chamber and work not only to model

integrity but to coach and engage business leaders so that integrity is seen as crucial element of operating a business in El Paso.

John Lewis never stepped off the path to equity and that kind of drive and desire for a better world inspires me and inspires so many that share my vision of the Chamber’s role in El Paso. There is work to be done, particularly as we address the pandemic and prepare for the eventual reopening of our economy. Now, more than ever, Lewis’s lessons of perseverance and the push for equity are guiding principles for the work we have before us.

Two final aspects of Lewis’s demeanor always impressed me and influence me now: his sense of humor and his optimism. For Lewis and the life he lived, I find these characteristics to be remarkable. I also find them to be instructive in this moment. There will be challenges and hills to climb, but together, with a sense of joy and optimism, we can make a difference for the community and work toward a better tomorrow.

Rest in peace, Representative John Lewis.