In Bowling Green on Friday to celebrate the success of federal spending that helped thousands of businesses survive the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted that another stimulus package is unlikely in this hyper-partisan election year.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has pumped about $700 billion into forgivable loans to businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, and McConnell touted the success of the PPP with a visit to TAZ Trucking Co. on Nashville Road.
Wearing a mask as he was introduced by TAZ Trucking owner Tahir Zukic, McConnell later called the Bosnian-born entrepreneur “a great example of how the PPP has helped us get through this period.”
TAZ Trucking, founded in 2003 by Zukic and his wife, Amira Zukic, now occupies a 50,000-square-foot headquarters, has more than 100 trucks and employs about 150 workers.
But despite his success in building TAZ Trucking, Tahir Zukic called the PPP “a lifesaver” for his company and for others around the country.
“For three months we had no freight moving,” he said. “Nearly all the factories were shut down. But we were able to keep all our employees paid.”
TAZ Trucking received PPP funding of more than $1 million, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration online database.
McConnell said that was just one example of the benefits of legislation that he championed. The six-term senator, who is being challenged this year by Democrat Amy McGrath, said the PPP has helped more than 50,000 Kentucky small businesses and nonprofits with more than $5.2 billion in forgivable loans.
He said the CARES Act has delivered more than $62.4 million to Warren County, including $37 million for The Medical Center at Bowling Green and $10.6 million for Western Kentucky University.
Yet, while celebrating that use of federal funds, McConnell pointed out that it has led to a ballooning of the federal debt and a reluctance to pump more money into households and businesses even as the pandemic continues.
The Congressional Budget Office said last week that this year’s deficit will hit $3.3 trillion, adding to a national debt that is already beyond $20 trillion. The CBO said the national debt will exceed the size of America’s gross domestic product for the first time since the end of World War II.
Largely for that reason, McConnell said more PPP-like funding isn’t likely to make its way through Congress.
The Democrat-run House has passed a $3.5 trillion second stimulus bill, but McConnell said the GOP-controlled Senate would like to scale that down.
“I’d like to see one more round of stimulus funding,” McConnell said as he was flanked by two TAZ trucks. “But it can’t be as large as what the House passed.”
A compromise isn’t likely, the senator said, because “the environment in Washington is extremely partisan in this election year.”
“I can’t promise another funding package, but I’m proud of what we did do,” McConnell said. “This (TAZ Trucking) is the best example of what we hoped to achieve.”
While not hopeful about a second stimulus bill, McConnell expressed optimism about a U.S. Department of Labor August jobs report that showed the nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent from 10.2 percent in July.
He said he’s also encouraged by news that progress is being made on developing a coronavirus vaccine.
“We hope a vaccine will be available later this year or early next year,” McConnell said. “In the meantime, we need to practice social distancing and wear masks.
“We’re not going to shut the economy down again.”