Like in other states, Kentucky’s Governor ordered childcare providers to close their doors in response to the coronavirus. Unfortunately, that left essential personnel including healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers and grocery store workers with few options for their kids. Jennifer Washburn, who runs the iKids Childhood Enrichment Center in Marshall County, stepped in to help. She received special permission to remain open and serve her neighbors in need.
Staying open wasn’t easy, however. Before the crisis, iKids cared for an average of 75 children every day. Lately, they’ve had only around a dozen, forcing Jennifer to make painful layoffs. Sadly, she’s not alone. In just the last few weeks, around 670,000 Kentuckians have filed for unemployment benefits, grappling with the economic challenges of the coronavirus.
Jennifer was connected with Central Bank in Lexington to apply for the new Paycheck Protection Program, a lifeline for small businesses like hers. The PPP works with community banks and credit unions to offer short-term loans—forgivable in certain circumstances—to small businesses, farmers and nonprofits to help them survive this crisis and keep Kentuckians employed.
The PPP is a centerpiece of the CARES Act, the coronavirus response legislation I introduced and led to passage. Our bill dedicated historic federal funds to beat this virus and help Kentuckians get the relief they need. It included $350 billion for these small business loans and became the largest economic rescue package in American history.
Jennifer’s application was approved, and she received a federally-guaranteed loan to help keep her lights on. She hired back 11 of her employees and has continued providing care to the children of her community’s essential workforce. I’m especially grateful to local lenders like Central Bank working day and night to support Jennifer and others staying open through the pandemic.
The PPP is currently helping nearly 42,000 Kentucky job creators get access to emergency cash through their local lenders. It’s so popular, the U.S. Small Business Administration processed more than 14 years’ worth of loans in under 14 days. Predictably, this huge undertaking encountered some hiccups along the way, but the program has already approved more than $5 billion for Kentucky small businesses, farmers and nonprofits. If Jennifer and other recipients use the funds to make payroll, pay rent or for certain other expenses, the loans can be completely forgiven.
Another one of those loans went to Isaiah House, an addiction treatment provider in Washington County. With its PPP loan, Isaiah House kept 180 staff members and continues delivering vital services to Kentuckians in recovery. For many in treatment, social distancing and isolation have meant new obstacles to sobriety. I’m proud the PPP is helping these Kentuckians maintain access to long-term recovery programs.
As the PPP was helping save millions of jobs across the country, it was also quickly running out of money. Disappointingly, Washington Democrats dragged their feet and caused the popular small business program to shut down for more than a week. While they played politics with this pandemic, workers in Kentucky and across the country were left out in the cold.
Thankfully, I secured bipartisan support for new resources so the PPP could continue helping Kentucky workers and businesses as they prepare to safely reopen. With a renewed focus on local lenders, more Kentuckians like Jennifer are receiving the emergency assistance they need until we’re able to get back to normal.
This aid to small businesses is just one aspect of the CARES Act that’s bringing urgent relief to our communities. So far, the bold legislation I introduced has made a $10 billion impact on Kentucky with direct cash to families, support for workers, funding for state and local governments and the resources our healthcare heroes need to beat this virus.
Still, too many families are facing daunting challenges. It’s going to take brave individuals like Jennifer to safely re-open our economy and get back to normal, while continuing to follow the advice of medical experts. I’m proud to stand with her and the many other Kentuckians showing us we can get through this unprecedented crisis together.