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Columbia Business Monthly

Do Leaders in Washington Know the Needs of Small Businesses?

By Frank Knapp Jr.

Co-chair, Small Business for America’s Future

CEO, South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce

Do leaders in Washington really know the needs of small businesses?

The answer is an unqualified “no” according to 81 percent of the respondents to a national survey conducted this summer by Small Business for America’s Future (SBAF).

One does not need to look any further for an example of this disconnect than how the Senate moved at lighting speed to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Small businesses across this country are struggling to survive and closing permanently at an alarming rate. Yet Republican Senators have mainly focused their time and energy before the Nov. 3 election on the Supreme Court. A whole month has been wasted on filling the vacancy, something that was a foregone conclusion and could have been done after the election.

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 small business owners, SBAF found that two-thirds believe it would have been more important for the future of our country for Congress to prioritize another economic relief package over Supreme Court hearings. That’s because electing a new justice did not save even one of the 15 percent of small business owners who said they won’t make it past October without more federal aid or the 34 percent who said that they won’t make it past the end of the year.

Electing the justice did not provide even one dollar to the Covid-19 unemployed so they can pay their rent, buy food, or spend it in the local economy, which would help struggling small businesses.

Electing a justice did not fund Covid-19 rapid testing, contact tracing or the research needed to develop a vaccine, all absolutely necessary to get the pandemic under control and return the economy to normal.

Senate Republican leadership, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary, does not seem to care about the health of our small business economy that is the lifeblood of our local communities. As long as the stock market is doing well, they see no economic problem for America.

The rush to fill the Supreme Court vacancy has tremendous implications for the health of small business’s bottom line in another way as well.

The justice who President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans were eager to seat has a long track record of opposing Supreme Court decisions that have turned down legal efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She is a perfect fit for a party that has tried to eliminate the ACA for the past 10 years.

The game plan is clear and the financial consequences will be dire for small business.

On Nov. 10, two weeks after the Senate vote on Mr. Trump’s justice nominee, the Supreme Court is scheduled to take up a case that could end up declaring that the ACA is unconstitutional.

If that happens, more than 20 million people who have health insurance thanks to the ACA could lose their private or public health insurance. Additionally, the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and private health insurance face these stark possibilities:

Their policies will not be renewed.

Their pre-existing conditions will not be covered.

Their insurance premiums will skyrocket.

And now the estimated almost 10 percent of Americans who have contracted Covid-19 will also be considered to have a pre-existing condition even if they are asymptomatic.

With the ACA gone, small business owners will see double-digit premium increases if one of their employees has a pre-existing condition. All private health insurance premiums will quickly rise because the cost to hospitals for providing healthcare to the uninsured will be passed on to those with policies.

Once again, Senate Republicans are completely out of step with the needs of small business.

Small business owners know that this should not be the path forward for lowering healthcare costs. About 67 percent of small businesses want the ACA to be strengthened, not killed, according to an SBAF survey.

So, with the Senate vote on the Supreme Court nomination, these Washington leaders have demonstrated twice that they absolutely do not know the needs of small businesses.

Frank Knapp Jr. is the co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future and the CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.