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In Rogers, Cotton, Womack get earful

Pass economic aid bill, businesses say by Doug Thompson | October 10, 2020 at 3:38 a.m.
Gentry Primary School Principal Victoria Groomer and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton observe a second-grade virtual class taught by Natalie Johnson in Gentry. Cotton toured the school to see how the Gentry School District is handling the pandemic and to observe protocols that have put in place. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

ROGERS -- U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and 3rd Congressional District Rep. Steve Womack "got an earful," in Womack's phrase, about the damage done to businesses by the covid-19 pandemic and the need for another stimulus package during a meeting with at least 20 businessmen in Rogers.

Cotton and Womack, both Republicans, went to a meeting Friday organized by the Northwest Arkansas Council and held at the World Trade Center in Rogers. The council is a nonprofit made up of business and community leaders in the region.

"Northwest Arkansas had a growing restaurant, entertainment and hospitality sector that is the hardest hit by this," Cotton said after the meeting. Organizers asked the attending media to allow the business participants to speak without being quoted. Cotton and Womack gave interviews after the meeting.

The attendees told the congressmen that another stimulus package is needed even if it means giving ground to opposing viewpoints in Congress between Republicans and Democrats. Both object to the economic relief package that was passed by the Democratic majority in the House. Their main objection, both said, was billions of dollars in non-covid-related assistance, such as money to help pension funds for city employees of Chicago.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

Businesses need stimulus money and an end to the uncertainty over when and how much stimulus is coming if it comes at all, said one of the attendees who agreed to take questions.

"My message to the senator and congressman was: Small businesses need clear direction," said Stan Zylowski, chief executive officer of Movista, a Bentonville-based software firm. Businesses cannot plan appropriately without knowing what is coming next from the government, he said.

[RELATED: Full coverage of elections in Arkansas » arkansasonline.com/elections/]

"Every day that passes without direction causes permanent harm to our community and small businesses across the U.S.," Zylowski said. Cotton and Womack clearly took the group's feedback seriously, he said. "The question is whether enough of their colleagues share that passion."

The meeting was a good opportunity to tell the business officials why their congressmen weren't agreeing to sign off on the House bill, according to Womack. For instance, he said provisions in the House bill would increase unemployment insurance compensation and costs so much it would close many of the businesses the bill is supposed to help.

Cotton wants a bill much more precisely aimed at helping businesses that clearly need the help. The first stimulus package, passed in March, distributed more than $2 trillion so broadly that many companies with no need for the assistance received it anyway, he said.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to view » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mHfWZnZTX4]

One idea raised at the meeting that Cotton found particularly interesting would be a tax credit for landlords who gave their commercial tenants a break on their rents, the senator said.

Andrea Folger, a first grade teacher at Gentry Primary School, and her students wear personal protection equipment Friday, October 9, 2020, as she teaches an english lesson at the school in Gentry. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton toured the school to get a first hand look at how the district is handling the pandemic and to observe protocols that have put in place. Check out nwaonline.com/201010Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
Andrea Folger, a first grade teacher at Gentry Primary School, and her students wear personal protection equipment Friday, October 9, 2020, as she teaches an english lesson at the school in Gentry. U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton toured the school to get a first hand look at how the district is handling the pandemic and to observe protocols that have put in place. Check out nwaonline.com/201010Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
Principal Victoria Groomer (left), and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton observe Friday, October 9, 2020, the first grade class of Natalie Johnson at Gentry Primary School in Gentry. Cotton toured the school to get a first hand look at how the district is handling the pandemic and to observe protocols that have put in place. Check out nwaonline.com/201010Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)
Principal Victoria Groomer (left), and U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton observe Friday, October 9, 2020, the first grade class of Natalie Johnson at Gentry Primary School in Gentry. Cotton toured the school to get a first hand look at how the district is handling the pandemic and to observe protocols that have put in place. Check out nwaonline.com/201010Daily/ and nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

Doug Thompson can be reached by email at dthompson@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWADoug.

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