CHARLESTON – In light of the effect the current water supply crisis is clearly having on countless small businesses in the nine counties under a State of Emergency, House Speaker Tim Miley and members of the House of Delegates leadership have begun working on legislation to provide immediate financial assistance in such times of emergency.
“Small businesses are the backbone of West Virginia, and we certainly cannot afford to jeopardize losing any because of this kind of emergency,” House Speaker Tim Miley said. “A lot of small businesses during certain times of the year will have cash flow problems, so an event like this can be devastating.”
The Speaker, House Majority Leader Harry Keith White and House Finance Chairman Brent Boggs are working with Kanawha Delegate Doug Skaff, chairman of the House Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development Committee, to develop a Small Business Emergency Relief Fund.
“I am hearing from fellow restaurant owners and many others who run small businesses in the Kanawha Valley that are forced to remain closed during the busiest time of the week,” Chairman Skaff said. “They are extremely concerned. “A little bit of assistance to help meet immediate expenses would go a long way for these people.”
Skaff said the assistance could help pay for rent or utilities. He noted that January 15, the deadline to monthly sales and use tax, is just around the corner.
Majority Leader White, a banker by profession, said he recalls a similar successful effort in Southern West Virginia to provide very low- or no-interest loans to rebuild bridges wiped out by flooding.
“We will work to carefully craft legislation that provides a limited, zero-interest loan to small businesses located in an area where a State of Emergency has been declared,” White said. “We are considering a variety of parameters, for instance, setting a cap based on the weekly sales from the same time in the previous year.”
Chairman Boggs said, “In the coming days House leadership will work with Governor Tomblin, Senate President Kessler and Senate Finance Chairman Prezioso on assessing the feasibility of the concept and possible funding sources.”
The issue will be the first considered by the newly formed Small Business, Entrepreneurship & Economic Development Committee.
“These small businesses don’t always have the luxury of drawing from large cash reserves or lines of credit in order to get by,” Speaker Miley said. “We want to be able to help them quickly meet their cash flow needs in the short term while they deal with a crisis situation like this.”