The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Sarah Crozier,, 303-868-9600

Senator Bernie Sanders Says We Must Be "Flexible and Aggressive" to Save Small Businesses


On a virtual call hosted by the Vermont chapter of the Main Street Alliance yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke with Vermont small business owners on the continuing COVID-19 crisis, and what support is still necessary to shore up a robust small business economy. From the Paycheck Security Act to health care needs, to child care, building pandemic resilience will take more than simply flipping a switch.

You can listen to the full call here.

Below are highlighted quotes from the conversation:

On a small business future:

Senator Bernie Sanders
"I think there is to some degree a rethinking of the very nature of American society, of how we create an economy that works for all, not just a handful of giant corporations, how do we address the issues of income and wealth inequality."

Senator Bernie Sanders
"Throughout this country, and especially in the state of Vermont, small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are the backbone of local communities. Every small business has different needs, and if we are not flexible, and aggressive in saving small businesses, the future for our state, and probably every other state, is dire indeed."

Cynthia Ryan, Edgeworks Creative, Waterbury VT
"Towns in Vermont don't look like town after town in other states because they aren't dominated by chain restaurants, big box stores, and payday loan shops that make up so much of the rest of this country. It is so easy to see that Vermont is unique because of our small businesses. Unfortunately though, if real help for businesses doesn't come soon, Vermont will be utterly changed."

Sarah Gray, REV Indoor Cycling, South Burlington VT
"Small business is the working-class backbone of American life. We are innovators, hard workers and entrepreneurs. We work long hours, we care for our employees, and we know the first and last names of our customers. We live in the communities we serve and we support the local economy. If we are left to fail, large corporations will only get bigger and gain more control over the American tax-payer and voter."

Justin Barrett, Piecemeal Pies, White Riven Junction, VT
"Our landlord has made it clear that he doesn't want to wait for us to figure it out, so he is planning on converting our space into apartments unless we can open asap. I cannot tell you how disheartening it is to have put so much effort into creating meaningful jobs, a product we are proud of and thoughtful experiences for our guests, just to have the rug pulled out from under you."

Senator Bernie Sanders
"Somebody pointed out that I'm a strong advocate for the working class of this country, and that's true. I want you all to know that I consider what you are doing, small businesses, to be part of that working class .I know how hard you're working, and I know the kinds of anxieties many of you have, not just now but day-to-day running a small business. Worrying about your employees and doing well by your customers. I just want to reiterate and I say this with absolute sincerity....You're working hard, you want to make money and that's great. But you also understand to succeed as a state you got to worry about the children, got to worry about the environment, and treat people with respect and dignity."

On Supports for Small Businesses:

Senator Bernie Sanders
"What we are proposing... is to do what we call the Paycheck Security Act, which essentially does what was done in Europe, and in fact was done in past legislation here in the CARES Act, and that is maintaining paychecks for workers. We did that for the airline industry."

Morgan Nichols, Vermont State Director, Main Street Alliance
"Main Street Alliance is supporting proposals put forward like your Paycheck Security Act and other proposals from your colleagues in Washington who recognize that in order to save our small business economy from the long term impacts of this pandemic, we must put the health and safety of our communities first."

Cynthia Ryan, Edgeworks Creative, Waterbury VT
"Not only were we not getting paid, we were using what was left of our personal funds to cover the expenses. But we were told not to worry, the PPP would be retroactive to the date the State of Emergency was declared, so we would at least be able to recover the personal funds we'd used for payroll. Once the PPP funds arrived, we found out that wasn't true. Without accurate information it feels impossible to make sound business decisions. I'm honestly scared to use the PPP funds!"

Sarah Gray, REV Indoor Cycling, South Burlington VT
"Thankfully, my landlord provided me with 50% rent forgiveness in April and May, but he is not legally bound to do so. I worry that if the State reopens fitness facilities in June, my landlord will ask for and expect 100% of the rent and then my business may not survive."

On PPP Clarity needed:

Cynthia Ryan, Edgeworks Creative, Waterbury VT
"I am trying to do everything correctly -- these are public funds and I feel a real responsibility to use them as was intended by Congress -- but there is no clarity about the terms. Our company can't afford to take on more debt; but feedback regarding the terms for forgiveness seems to change daily and neither my bank nor I have anything in writing that indicates any of the loan will be forgiven. What keeps me up at night is that I don't know what I have signed on to."

Justin Barrett, Piecemeal Pies, White Riven Junction, VT
"The clock on the PPP is running out, I still don't have clear guidance about the rules for forgiveness and I still just don't know how I'm going to pay both business rents, and my personal rent. The PPP doesn't work for small businesses with high overhead, and it doesn't help in the long run."

On Child Care and Health Care:

Senator Bernie Sanders
"If there was ever a moment in American history when I would hope that people recognize that health care should not be an employer responsibility, but should be a human right guaranteed to all of our people, whether you're working for a small business, a big business, whether you're employed, whether you're a child, or whether you're retired.... It would be a tremendous burden off the backs of small businesses in good times and in bad times."

Senator Bernie Sanders
"It goes without saying to me, that if we're concerned about the future of this country, if we're concerned about the need to have the best educated population on earth in a competitive global economy then we have got to have universal child care. That means everybody, every parent in this country regardless of income knows that there's great quality child care available, where the instructors there are well trained and well paid... this will be a boon to small business."

Michele Asch, VP Leadership and Organizational Development. Twincraft Skincare
Winooski, VT
"I've seen firsthand that our business's success and future growth is limited unless our employees have access to safe, affordable and high quality child care. Covid-19 has made us all painfully aware of the critical role that child care plays in our society. It is becoming clearer to all that child care is not an economic accessory; it is an absolute necessity to a thriving society and economy...The pandemic has exposed the inequities in this fragile system and exacerbated the child care crisis Vermonters were already facing."

"State and national organizations are advocating for at least $50 billion in flexible funds for child care in the next recovery bill. The House leadership's proposal does not go nearly far enough...These funds will not only save the child care programs destined to close without it, it will provide the catalyst to establish a long term solution to our child care crisis throughout the U.S. Accessible, high quality child care is one of the pillars of economic and social progress - part of the NEW DEAL that will help create a healthy society for all Americans."

Senator Bernie Sanders
"We're going to have to greatly expand testing, we're going to have to improve testing... We need global cooperation in developing a vaccine as soon as we can, and to make sure that everybody in the country, regardless of their income has that vaccine."

The Main Street Alliance (MSA) is a national network of small business coalitions working to build a new voice for small businesses on important public policy issues. Main Street Alliance members are working throughout the country to build policies that work for business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve.