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Arizona chamber CEO says depleted small business relief fund is crucial

PHOENIX – It’s crucial to Arizona’s economy for Congress to quickly replenish a coronavirus rescue fund that provides a lifeline for small businesses, according to the leader of the state’s chamber of commerce.

“We simply can’t afford to wait,” Glen Hamer, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday, the same day the federal Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money.

The Small Business Administration, which administers the program, reached its $349 billion lending limit and is no longer accepting applications.

Hamer said 11,000 Arizona businesses qualified for $3.5 billion through the program.

“Small businesses are dropping like flies,” he said. “We have a program that has already saved millions of small business jobs and well over 1 million small businesses.

“Congress needs to today figure out a way to, by unanimous consent, get the $250 billion increase requested by the administration past the Congress and to the president’s desk.”

The outlook for the legislation is unclear, and negotiators are unlikely to meet a potential deadline of a vote during Thursday afternoon’s pro forma session.

The Capitol is largely shuttered, requiring consensus from all sides for any legislation to pass, and top GOP leaders are vowing to stick closely to Trump’s request despite Democrats’ additional demands.

Hamer called the situation in Arizona “bleak,” with at least 350,000 residents filing for unemployment insurance in the past month.

“This is well over 10% of our entire private sector work force,” he said.

In the week that ended April 11, Arizonans made 95,382 initial unemployment claims on top of 164,483 continuing claims, according to the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

By contrast, there were 3,844 initial claims and 17,595 continued claims for the week ending March 14.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

For Arizona vaccine information, visit azdhs.gov/findvaccine.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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