For the past six years—since Iowans first elected me to the United States Senate—I’ve completed my annual tradition of visiting each and every one of Iowa’s 99 counties. As a result, I’ve spent many Saturdays participating in what I call Main Street Tours, visiting mom and pop shops and hearing from small business owners in towns across our state. Stop after stop, I’ve always enjoyed hearing from many hard-working entrepreneurs who serve their communities and help grow our local economies in Iowa.
Whether it’s a coffee shop in Grundy Center, a women’s clothing store in Boone, a bakery in Waverly, or a dairy production facility and retail store in Waukon, it’s so important that I’m on the ground engaging with folks to ensure I understand the problems they face so I can best represent them in Washington. And during this challenging year, I’ve worked hard to connect with Iowa small businesses to ensure they’re getting the support and relief they need.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that our small businesses needed assistance. That’s why, as a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, I quickly got to work to help provide relief to local employers in Iowa, and across the country. Along with my fellow members of the committee—Republicans and Democrats—I helped create the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has helped mom and pop shops throughout the country stay afloat. In Iowa alone, over 61,000 small businesses have received support from this critical lifeline.
But we know the pandemic is still ongoing. That’s why I’ve continued to call on my colleagues to come together to find ways to make sure local businesses have the financial stability necessary to keep their doors open. With funds still left in the PPP, I’ve called for our hardest-hit small businesses to get a second pass at the program. While my friends across the aisle have twice chosen to block this commonsense relief, I’m not giving up. I remain committed to working with Democrats and Republicans to support the business owners, entrepreneurs, and workers who contribute so much to our local communities.
Tomorrow is Small Businesses Saturday, and I’m encouraging all Iowans to find ways to continue supporting small businesses in our state—in our rural towns and our urban centers. While it’s important we follow public health guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus, there are many ways to safely and responsibly help out our local businesses.
Iowans know that small businesses are the backbone of this state, and supporting them is crucial to our recovery from COVID-19. Whether it’s ordering a takeout meal, purchasing gift cards from local restaurants, or finding those wish list items online, be creative and continue to shop local this weekend and throughout the holiday season.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.