Rep. Chris Stewart encourages struggling
business to ‘hang on’
By Ben Lassetter
EPHRAIM—In a roundtable discussion at Snow College last week, Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah’s 2nd District encouraged owners of struggling businesses to “hang on by the fingernails.”
He asked them about the new coronavirus’s economic impact and whether the federal payment protection plan from March had helped to cover losses. He warned of more economic strain to come this winter, but said he was “optimistic” that a vaccine could be developed and begin to promote long-term economic recovery by next spring.
Dirk Correnti, owner of Dirk’s Farmhouse Restaurant in Manti, said pandemic regulations have caused severe cash-flow loss and that he worries he may never see a return to normalcy in his customer base.
Correnti said the CARES Act, created to relieve individuals and businesses, has allowed him to keep some of his businesses afloat. However, he said some employees he had to lay off temporarily chose not to return immediately when invited, because they were receiving more money from unemployment benefits supplemented by the relief package than wages.
“We lost 23 million jobs, and most of those people wanted to keep working,” Rep. Stewart said. “We’d encourage them: don’t rely on the unemployment benefits, it’s gonna end. Come back to work. Employers want them to come back.”
The CARES Act, which sent weekly checks worth $600 to many receiving unemployment benefits, expired in late July. The week prior to the roundtable, Aug. 16 to Aug. 22, the state of Utah received 5,628 new unemployment claims, according to Fox 13 Salt Lake City.
Rep. Stewart said it would take “a lot of convincing” for him to approve more spending for unemployment aid.
“Before the pandemic hit, I was frustrated with our [national] deficit,” he said. “And now it’s times five or six.”
Others at the roundtable represented their local businesses in food production and distribution, media, automobile and other industries. They voiced frustration about their tax rates soaring to as high as 50 percent in recent years, while knowing some of the country’s largest corporations often pay small fractions of those rates.
Many at the roundtable also agreed on having a problem finding skilled labor. One said he fears a “civil war” mindset is forming in the country and urged the congressman to “keep us free.”
Rep. Stewart’s stop in Ephraim was the first of the day on a statewide tour. He is running for re-election in November.