Kagen visits Crandon to discuss American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
By Vern Hollister
Rhinelander Daily News
Taking a page from Senator Russ Feingold’s town hall meetings, Congressman Steve Kagen spent Tuesday, April 7 bringing his message as it regards the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to Marinette, Shawano and to Crandon, cities in the 8th Congressional District which Kagen represents.
“The last thing I want to see is all that money from the Federal House go someplace other than my district,” Kagen said. “It’s not a bailout; it’s not a handout,” he said. “It’s to make it easier.”
Emphasizing that he voted two times against the government bailout, Kagen said, “I’ve voted against the bailout twice. I voted against the bailout of the auto industry because if you’re too big to fail, you shouldn’t exist.”
Of the 19 largest banks, eight have “gone dry,” Kagen said. “Identify who’s too big to fail and break that up into a regional bank. Divide it up so that we don’t have to go through this period of adjustment we’re going through now. The way out of this mess, and I’m very confident we’ll get out of this, is with jobs and more jobs.”
In the lead against bailouts to large banks and corporations and believing that the role of government is to promote domestic growth, Kagen was instrumental in spearheading funds being made available for smaller companies of which 90 percent of jobs come according to figures from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
After meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and his staff, three weeks later on March 16, 2009, the administrator of the USSBA issued two “key provisions” as they affect ARRA and based on the premise that small businesses employ half of the nation’s workers and create 70 percent of the new jobs. “SBA this week is implementing two key provisions laid out in the Recovery Act,” the information stated. “We are temporarily eliminating certain loan fees and raising guarantees on 7(a) loans up to 90 percent.”
Small business under item 7(a) can borrow up to $2 million and the guarantee is for 75 percent.
Under a 504 plan, the maximum loan is $4 million. With the fee waiver, borrowing to start a business or to keep one afloat would be less costly, plus the load is guaranteed by the government.
"We’re all connected to this economy," Kagen said. "Keep people in their homes with jobs – jobs and more jobs. When we’re working, we can pay our mortgage, we can make our payments. We can stay in our home because if you have an empty home or lot in your community, that brings down the value of everybody’s home. Whether we like it or not, we’re all connected in this economy. How it goes in the Crandon area will affect Green Bay and it will affect Chicago."
Over 100 people packed the conference room of the Best Western Inn & Suites in Crandon, including County Board representatives, small business owners and members of the Crandon Chamber of Commerce. Mike Gruett, president of the Chamber, introduced representative Kagen to the group. Gruett owns three TV & Appliance stores, is a member of the Room Tax Commission, and also builds and maintains multifamily homes, personifying a small business owner.
Kagen’s opening remarks urged constituents and small business owners to take advantage of the recent legislation and the available funding. It’s on a first-come, first served basis."Now, who’s making jobs?" Kagen said. "Ninety-three percent of all employers in the United States are small businesses. Eight of ten jobs that will be created are done so in small businesses. Fifty percent of our Gross National Product is from small business.
"The point is, we have to treat small businesses the same way the past administration treated large businesses and the banking and financial world and get the interest rate as close to zero as we can get. Accordingly, I went to the president and his staff and suggested some programs, one of which we’ll talk about today. Three weeks ago yesterday, I was at the White House with the president when he announced the small business initiation, the first step when he waived the initiation fee and guaranteed 90 percent if you’re a qualifying small business. This is an opportunity to expand," Kagen said, "to hire more people and begin to work our way out of the recession."
Eric Ness, district director of the USSBA said that loans for small businesses are down 40 percent and that the ARRA allows business to elongate their loans, lengthen their payments, and that "some lenders aren’t making loans because they can’t sell their loans." With ARRA the government backs the loans. Construction companies need Surety bonds and that figure has been raised from $2 million to $5 million. If it is a federal project, the figure reaches $10 million. Already 119,000 requests have been put in for construction. "It’s a great time to apply for these," Ness said.
Two other speakers from the Wisconsin USDA Rural Development Offices reminded those in attendance that they have 40 programs for communities that deal with water and sewer and treatment, and "essential community facilities." Those include youth centers, nursing home, and libraries, as example. Other programs focus on single family homes, guaranteed loans and low interest repair grants, though some eligibility requirements apply.
Listeners were encouraged to contact the Shawano Area office, 603B Lakewood Road, Shawano, WI 54166. The phone number is (715) 524-8522, or e-mail [email protected]
Earlier, Kagen had said that because of its economic reach, this crisis is "worse than the Great Depression." Later, he said, "I have come to believe that this is the boldest (program) in history."
Some time remained for questions, including health care issues, prevalent on the minds of many citizens. Kagen said that insurance companies should get rid of the "pre-existing conditions" facet of insurance, that eveyone whould receive the same discounts. Prices should be equal across the board. He told the story of an MRI for his knee. As the only member of either the House of Representatives and the Senate without insurance, the cost would be $413. With insurance it jumped to $1,400. "Everyone should pay the same price and receive the same discount."
One audience member said, "I’m very concerned that we are setting ourselves up for a bigger and harder fall. We have lived on the fat side of the fat hog."
Another suggested we need more storage sheds for our mass of accumulations, which led to China and how we get out of that. Kagen painted a picture of sweatshops, but allowing businesses to continue use of such was not specifically addressed. A member of the financial sector mentioned how investors dropped.
Though globally, we are connected, "We have to right our own ship," Kagen said. He likened past financial practice to a shell game where companies bought things that did not exist and put up no collateral. "The president," Kagen said, "is committed to moving forwazrd as it relates to housing and jobs. As they say in textbooks, we are the government, and we are in your hands."