The Shutdown And Small Business
Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin Speak to County Business Community Regarding Government Shutdown in Town Hall As National Costs In Damages Are Estimated at $5 Billion Per Week
This is the fourth article in an ongoing series that will be provided by Prince George’s Suite Magazine and Media as this development continues to evolve. Watch this space.
By Raoul Dennis // Audio: Listen To The Senators’ Discussion Via PGCOC Town Hall Shutdown
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAOUL DENNIS
Fueled by the developing fiscal challenges arising for small businesses in Prince George’s as a result of the partial government shutdown, small and local business owners gathered at the Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce Jan 17 at Largo’s DoubleTree Hotel.
Entitled, “A Business Town Hall on the Federal Shutdown,” it didn’t take long for Chamber of Commerce President & CEO David Harrington to get consensus on one key point just after introducing guests Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin: demand that (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell allow the vote to get people back to work.
“Hashtag Take The Vote Now,” Harrington lobbied the leaders in the room. “That’s what we need. That’s how we will help you move forward,” he said looking toward Cardin and Van Hollen.
Harrington said the town hall became the obvious thing to do as the growing convergence of interests between local businesses and advocacy leaders in the face of the shutdown and its impact on economic ecosystems around the nation. “Businesses [need] to hear from them about the level of advocacy the senators are doing and the senators need to hear from businesses to hear how this is impacting the country.”
Sen. Cardin jumped directly in.
“There is one person and one person only who is responsible for this shutdown and that is the President of the United States,” Cardin said to nearly 150 business and organization leaders. The two statesmen shared updates on the status of the stalemate while county business leaders offered comments and questions about the ongoing impact of the shutdown.
“The appropriations committee (of which Sen. Van Hollen is a member) acted on a homeland security budget that included border security,” Cardin said in explaining how the crisis began. “It’s my understanding that president had requested in the budget year $1.6 billion for securing the border. The Senate passed $1.6 billion for border security--the exact amount that the president requested. That money was approved for the funds for border security agreed to by the experts. No, it does not include a wall but it does make sure our borders are secure. So, we have asked Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow the vote to pass the budget that we have already passed so that agencies can be opened. This makes no sense. We have agreed on those numbers.” [Hear PGCOC Town Hall Shutdown audio 1]
Sen. Chris Van Hollen followed Cardin, his senior colleague, and began his remarks saying that the circumstances of the visit to the fast growing county are unusual and unfortunate.
“We normally would be here talking about future investments,” Van Hollen said. “Prince George’s County is a great success story. The economic growth here has been faster than any other county in the state. The growth has been two times the state average. So we would like to be here talking about our future investments in metro. We would like to be talking about the purple line. We would like to be talking about our efforts to bring the FBI here. We have not given up on that.”
But each of those discussions has given way to the shutdown. [Hear PGCOC Town Hall Shutdown audio 2]
“Normally, we would be talking about those important federal investments, but here we are talking about a shameful unnecessary government shutdown and it’s mushrooming. The impacts are harmful and growing,” he said.
Both senators called on the business community to apply greater pressure on their congressional representatives to vote on the current bills and re-open government. [Hear PGCOC Town Hall Shutdown audio 3]
The economic harm is growing with the estimated damages at $5 billion per week, noted Mr. Van Hollen (sources such as Time and FORTUNE magazines confirm similar estimates). [Hear PGCOC Town Hall Shutdown audio 4]
One of the most critical questions had to do with negative credit ratings as a result of slow payments caused by the shutdown.
Van Hollen said that although regulations around circumstances like that have been relaxed since the Trump Administration came to office, efforts were being made to reach out to banking industry leaders to restrain from derailing the credit ratings of people and small businesses during this period. Van Hollen is working on legislation to make sure that people will not have their credit scores downgraded due to the shutdown. It still has to go through the process, however. A number of banking professionals present provided options aimed at helping to hold harmless people and businesses that are swept under the negative cash flow wave caused by the shutdown period.
“We need to work with other members and the utility companies to assure that they work with people. The Alsobrooks administration is currently working with several utility companies, schools and more to address that concern. Click here for more information.
When one guest asked about missing mortgage or utility payments of clients and scores, Sen. Cardin explained that there are two parts to the legislation they are working on: natural disaster circumstances and credit scoring. “We are working with the Congressional Research Service to look at how we can use delayed payments as a result of shutdown to appeal credit scores.”
“The learning that came out of today is that these bills are sitting on McConnell’s desk,” Harrington said. “We have the votes to pass those bills. Let’s take the vote. Let’s get Kentucky constituencies to put pressure on McConnell to take the vote.”
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