U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said Friday that small businesses should not be concerned that relief money for loans and grants will run out.
Speaking from his Mecklenburg County home, Tillis said the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program, which many small-business owners say has been bumpy, is "an evolving process."
"We’re getting the guidance out [to banks] today," he said. "It’s going to take a while to scale."
"I think you’re going to start seeing cash flowing pretty quickly," Tillis added.
Some business owners and economists have said the $350 billion program is much smaller than the current need, but Tillis said, if that's the case, Congress will backfill what's needed.
"I don’t think any business should be concerned with that," Tillis said.
"There’s a lot of resources out there. We’re encouraging businesses to take advantage of them, trying to do everything that we can to make sure that they can make payroll," he explained. "If they apply for a loan and they’re using a portion or all of the loan to pay their employees, that will be a grant, not a loan that they’ll have to pay back."
Tillis said lawmakers will make changes to the program if needed.
"This is a big bill – the largest stabilization package ever passed by Congress. Some of it’s going to work, some may not work as well as we’d hoped. So, we’ll have to repurpose and, if necessary, take additional action when we get back into Washington."
The first-term Republican senator, up for re-election in November, didn't directly answer a question about whether the federal government would send more protective equipment to North Carolina.
"They’re trying to keep a portion of the [federal] stockpile in reserve so we can surge to areas that may end up seeing an increase in incidences of the virus," he said. "So 25 percent of the stockpile’s being distributed based on population of the states. Another 25 percent is being distributed on the basis of where the need is the greatest."
He added that the private sector is stepping up to meet states' needs, and mentioned a process recently invented at Duke University Health System to sterilize and reuse N95 masks.
"The main thing we have to do is get everyone in North Carolina and across the country to heed the advice of social distancing," Tillis said.
"Now we’re being told that they should also – anyone that goes out – should have something over their own mouths, whether it’s a scarf or a mask they may use as they’re painting or doing woodworking at home," he added, "to do everything we can to reduce the spread and the demand for all of this protective equipment."
Complimenting Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for "doing a great job" handling the crisis in North Carolina, Tillis, who is a Republican, spoke of its impact on his family. He said he hasn't seen his 2-year-old granddaughter in three weeks and added that his daughter, who's a nurse and is expecting this summer, "is putting on her scrubs and going to work every day."
"I’m proud of the fact that she’s showing up for work. It’s critically important that we do that and we answer the call," Tillis said, "and I’m struggling just like any granddad with not being able to see my grandchildren. But I’m doing it because it’s what I’m asking of everybody else, and we’ve got to lead by example."