Wilk, lawmakers introduce COVID grant measure for small businesses

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State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and a bipartisan group of California lawmakers introduced Thursday a bill that would use nearly $3 billion in grant funding for small businesses affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Senate Bill 74, dubbed the “Keep California Working Act,” was introduced by Sens. Andreas Borgeas, R–Fresno, and Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, and 25 additional legislators, including Wilk and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, who co-authored the measure. 

The bill seeks to invest $2.6 billion, or 10% of the state’s projected surplus, to the Office of Small Business Advocate to aid small business owners and their employees who have endured financial struggles brought forth by the coronavirus crisis. If signed into law, the Advocate would have to administer the program and award grants of an unspecified amount, according to the bill. 

The measure includes an urgency clause so it can take effect immediately upon approval.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and their employees have continued to sustain our economy but have taken some serious hits,” said Caballero in a prepared statement. “We cannot ask that they continue to suffer loss without a swift and expedited plan to send relief their way. I look forward to working in a bipartisan manner to ensure that we do the right thing, and support our local small businesses and their employees.”

Wilk was critical of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response to the pandemic and the effects back-and-forth reopening measures have had on businesses amid fluctuating COVID-19 figures. 

“If Gov. Newsom is going to pick winners and losers in California by opening and closing various sectors, we have a responsibility to provide these main street businesses with aggressive relief efforts,” said Wilk in a prepared statement. “They deserve our support during this challenging time. There are 3.7 million small businesses in California, employing 49.6% of the state’s workers. They are the state’s economic engine – and the pandemic has derailed them.”

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