Senate COVID-19 relief bill proposes protections for businesses reopening

Local News

With just three weeks left to agree on a COVID relief bill, otherwise risk a government shutdown, the U.S. Senate will vote on its version tomorrow. If it is passed through Congress, business owners can expect extra support.  

“I think the best thing for the economy and these small businesses and for schools is for people to be able to safely get on with their lives,” said U.S. Sen. R-Texas John Cornyn.  

While the House of Representatives has already approved a relief bill, the Senate is hoping to pass its own, which Sen. Cornyn said will serve as an ice breaker for reaching a bipartisan agreement.  

One proposal aimed at getting more businesses to reopen is to protect them from “frivolous” lawsuits.  

“What this would do is provide a safe harbor for those who do (reopen) against lawsuits,” he said. “It would not be a blanket ban on liability. it would not protect intentional or reckless misconduct.”  

New York Deli co-owner John L. Rendon said this provision would be helpful for them and other small businesses.  

At the start of the lockdown, they moved to curbside orders but reopened their dining rooms during phase III of Texas’ reopening in order to stay afloat.  

“We noticed a lot of people wanted to come and eat and we were starting to slow down,” he said. 

The restaurant was able to get a loan, which he said helped. But he believes the best way for the business and its employees to thrive is by staying open.  

“I think they’ve tried to help, like with the loans,” he said. “It was very easy to get, but i think they just need to reopen places. Stimulus checks help for a little bit.”  

Since hitting a spike in mid July, COVID cases in Texas have steadily decreased. If this trend continues, Sen. Cornyn hopes all businesses can return to normal operation.  

“Slowly but surely we’re demonstrating that given the proper practices, handwashing, social distancing, masking, stay at home when you’re sick, that people can their lives albeit with social distancing,” he said.  

While this proposed bill would continue offering unemployment benefits, the $300 weekly is half of what the House aims to provide. One similarity between the two is another round of direct payment to families earning under $75,000. 

Other focuses of the bill include providing more funding to healthcare workers, schools and COVID testing. 

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