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Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert

VENICE — Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert talked about the coronavirus relief bill President Donald Trump signed last week on the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page Monday.

The task fell to her because, as a former state legislator, “I do speak government-ese,” she said.

While 2020 will go down as the “worst year ever” for many small businesses, she was encouraged by many provisions of the CARES — “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” — Act — even just by the fact that it exists.

“What’s remarkable is your government may be working better than we thought it was,” she said.

But pulling together in a crisis, she said, is “what Americans are great at.”

In discussing the CARES Act with Chamber President and CEO Kathy Lehner, Detert focused on the Paycheck Protection Program, which expands on relief already available from the Small Business Administration.

Established small businesses — generally, those with fewer than 500 employees — can borrow up to $10 million under the PPP. The portion used to retain staff and pay overhead — rent, mortgage interest, utilities — can be forgiven as long as the employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks.

In that case, she said, “I would not tell my employees to file for unemployment. I would go for this program. You follow the rules on this one, the loan goes away.”

The CARES Act also has funds to supplement state unemployment programs but it only allows relief under one program. Unemployment claims would preclude obtaining a PPP loan to retain staff, she said.

She recommends business owners meet with their banker as soon as possible to look into the PPP.

Detert lauded Sen. Marco Rubio for his involvement in drafting the CARES Act. It was his idea, she said, to allow banks that work with the SBA to administer PPP loans, with no fees, instead of running the program through the agency. The loans are backed by the U.S. government.

“The U.S. government is buying back the economy,” Detert said.

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