By State Sen. Andy Zay (R-Huntington)
Over the past few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of our lives to varying degrees, but our Hoosier-owned small businesses have been disproportionately harmed.
In an attempt to expedite Indiana's economic recovery, I have developed a six-point plan to rejuvenate the small businesses that mean so much to our state. I call this plan "Time to get Main Street moving again."
The first four initiatives will focus on getting legislation passed to help create a more business-friendly environment and help Indiana be more inviting to out-of-state companies looking to expand.
First, I want to help protect small businesses against frivolous lawsuits stemming from COVID-19. If a business has made a good-faith attempt to follow all public health guidelines, they should not be subject to lawsuits if a customer or employee somehow still contracts the disease. The threat of such lawsuits could be the factor that causes some locally owned businesses to close their doors forever. We need to do everything we can as a state to prevent that outcome.
Second, we need to reform small business venture credit to help Hoosier companies develop and allow for entrepreneurship opportunities. This would eventually create more employment opportunities and expand Indiana's economy.
The third point of the plan is to reduce health insurance costs for small businesses by expanding their ability to join association health plans that pool resources and risk. In the 2020 legislative session, my colleagues and I passed Senate Enrolled Act 184, which gives farmers the ability to join such plans through the Indiana Farm Bureau. I believe we need to expand this same opportunity to other industries as well.
The fourth point is to give employers clarity that federal Paycheck Protection Program loans will be non-taxable at the state level. The federal government has already taken this step; now Indiana needs to enact the same policy so our small business owners aren't forced to live under two sets of rules.
The final two initiatives concern how Indiana should spend the stimulus dollars we have received under the federal CARES Act.
The first of these initiatives is to create new small business revolving loan and grant programs. The guidelines of the CARES Act specifically state that funding may be used to assist small businesses recovering from the economic shutdown. I believe the guidelines need to be amended to reach down to “Main Street USA” and get funds to local businesses that were impacted by the shutdown.
The second CARES Act initiative, and the final point of my plan, is to collaborate with the federal and state treasury to invest in internet connectivity. This pandemic has showed the importance of connectivity like never before through remote work, telehealth and e-learning. Indiana has already committed $100 million to connectivity in the 2019 budget. We should commit an additional $500 million in CARES Act funds to expand rural broadband and connect urban areas without internet access.
Although this next session will look different than it has in years past, I look forward to getting back to passing laws to improve the lives of Hoosiers and get Main Street moving again.
Please contact my office at email@example.com or 317-232-9400 with any comments, questions or concerns.
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