Warren Buffett said on Tuesday (US time) the United States is fighting an “economic war,” and that Congress must step up quickly to help struggling small businesses that have become “collateral damage” in the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on CNBC television, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway said he hopes Congress provides new stimulus soon, and extends “on a large scale” the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which was established earlier this year to provide loans to the nation’s smallest employers.
“It’s an economic war,” Buffett said. “We need another injection to complete the job. Congress is debating that right now, and I hope very much that they extend the PPP plan on a large scale to let the people who may see the light at the end of the tunnel get to the end of the tunnel.”
Small businesses, he said, “have become collateral damage in a war that our country needed to fight.”
Some pandemic relief programs are slated to lapse by the end of the year.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled a proposed $US748 billion ($988 billion) aid package on Monday that includes $US300 billion of small business relief.
Buffett, 90, said that while the Federal Reserve has done a “terrific job” shoring up the economy, the pandemic’s impact remains uneven, likening the “economic war” to when some US industries retrenched to support the country during World War Two.
He said that even within the food industry, manufacturers and large supermarkets have performed well while social distancing and other restrictions have devastated restaurants.
“It just killed the economics for somebody that may have been working for decades with their families to build a business,” he said.
Buffett said Congress should act before breaking for the Christmas holidays.
“If you’re going to act a month from now, why kill off another X per cent of the people who are potential successes by procrastination or arguments or political differences?” he said. “So let’s get people across the bridge.”
He was joined in the interview by Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, who argued that small businesses need more help even as the pandemic’s finish line is visible, with vaccines beginning to be distributed.
“The steps that the Fed and Treasury took to put liquidity into the market have certainly helped large businesses,” Solomon said. “But small businesses don’t have that access.”
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