When unforeseen emergencies occur, all systems of government (state, local, national, Republican or Democrat) are faced with challenges they did not anticipate having to govern through.

The Coronavirus Public Health Emergency is no exception to this rule.

The test all levels of government have to face is how their elected and appointed officials plan to meet the challenges of the crisis.

Among the issues leaders in Arizona have to meet is an antiquated computerized system at the Department of Economic Security, which has caused delays in the processing of thousands of unemployment claims.

Public servants in Arizona also have to deal with the fact that the Grand Canyon State is at the bottom of the country in providing community banking to residents and small businesses.

On this deficiency, forward-thinking voices like legislator Pamela Powers Hannley, former Senate Democratic Leader and Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Farley, and 2018 Democratic Treasurer Candidate Mark Manoil, have all advocated the creation and growth of more of these community-banking institutions.

Ms. Powers Hannley, writing on the benefits of Community Banking, noted:

“It (community banks) could self-fund highways, bridges, education, economic development—without going into debt to Wall Street. If the state had a public bank, it could also help local governments by lending them money for improvements at a reasonable rate. The local governments would save money, the state would make a modest income on these loans, and all levels of government would be free of Wall Street debt.”

 Mr. Farley championed the benefits of such institutions in a presentation to Arizonans for a New Economy in January 2015. The video link is below.

 

Mr. Manoil relayed:

“Arizona (should) develop its own state bank to take advantage of and create opportunities for affordable business and infrastructure credit, and to create a fertile environment for extending banking services into the many areas in the state that are under-served.”

In addition to the shortage of community banks, Arizona was also last in obtaining small business loans from the first phase of the Payback Protection Program, with many forced to wait until the second stage commenced to finalize their applications and receive aid.

The last two factors have found people and businesses asking government agencies like the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for support.

According to Maricopa County Board Supervisor District Three Candidate, Whitney Walker, the current Supervisors and their appointees on the Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority (MCIDA) have failed to adequately meet the needs of the small business community by not providing financial assistance to them.

Citing the example of the MCIDA refusing to issue a small business loan to the community organization, Chicanos Por La Causa, Ms. Walker issued a statement, which partially stated:

“Families are in crisis. Food pantry lines are circling the block. Small businesses are at the brink of permanently shutting their doors. Our communities are crying out. We must respond with bold leadership and policy solutions that put people first.”

“The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors―including my opponent, Supervisor Bill Gates―is doing just the opposite. And he’s doing so at the expense of hundreds of small businesses.”

“How? By selecting corporate interests to serve on the Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority (MCIDA)―a powerful tool that could be used for good, but is instead withholding much-needed funds from our communities.”

“The MCIDA, whose members are appointed by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, was created to spur economic development, job growth, and affordable housing. It exists to “improve the State’s economy through access to low-cost financing and community investments.” Right now, it could provide relief to hundreds of struggling small businesses in our community―but isn’t.”

“On April 22, MCIDA denied a proposal from the nonprofit, Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), that would have enabled CPLC to provide loans to 154 local businesses. MCIDA gave no reason or explanation for this denial. (For more background on the story, see ABC Family’s coverage).”

“To date, the MCIDA has done nothing to support small businesses in Maricopa County during the COVID-19 pandemic, even though it has $25 million sitting in reserves. If MCIDA can’t help us during a public health and economic crisis, when can it?”

“Unfortunately, their decision comes as no surprise. For too long, the Board of Supervisors’ handpicked MCIDA directors has cherry-picked the projects they fund. Lines are blurred, conflicts of interest are apparent, and big business interests are ALWAYS protected.”

“The message MCIDA sent to the small business community on April 22, 2020, was clear: they will not save us.”

Later in a phone interview, Walker said:

“Forty to fifty-four percent (of Arizona small businesses) need aid and 25 to 30 percent may go under if they do not get some type of assistance.  If these businesses go under, that could lead to a 36 percent job loss in Arizona, causing a severe downtown.”

“Also, this speaks to the (Board of Supervisors) severe lack of strategic planning at the county level. For example, the board should have introduced a change in policies to defer fees and business taxes for small businesses or set up an emergency loan fund that could be issued by the M.C.I.D.A. to address the needs of our many small businesses.” 

“They (the Board Members) haven’t worked to strengthen Maricopa County’s commitment to community banks. Community banks in Arizona only make up 15 % of total banking in Arizona. If we had more community banking opportunities and relationships, then the community could rebound quicker. We need to increase the number of Community Banks throughout Maricopa County.  The M.C.I.D.A nor the Board has put forth any plan on this issue.”

Ms. Walker suggested that small businesses in need of aid reach out to the following organizations (there may be more that readers should research) should they not receive assistance from the second increment of the Payroll Protection Act.  They are:

  • The Main Streets Matters Grant Program through the Better Business Bureau.
  • KIVA, a 501 C3 program that offers up to $15,000 loans at zero percent interest.
  • Prestamos, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that is offering COVID Microloans for up to $25,000.00 with the first six payments (principal and interest) paid for by them.

She also called for the board to better support our community banks and foster more collaboration because she “does not believe we will see a huge impact on the aid to community banks in the last Coronavirus bill. The county seems more interested in reopening rather than assisting those in need.” 

In moving forward Ms. Walker called for greater contingency planning for when future emergencies occur. She also suggested a larger alliance between city/town and county governments to work together to get aid to the people and businesses at a more efficient and faster pace. She also suggested that future members of the M.C.I.D.A. (who are appointed by the Supervisors to six-year terms) represent the interests of small businesses and community banks, not corporate businesses and large financial institutions.

Promoting the growth of community banks, (as described by Walker, Powers Hannley, Farley, and Manoil,), the entities that invest in small businesses that benefit local towns and cities are also vital to this long term planning.

Whitney Walker reminds everyone that the County level of government is just as essential and important to the lives of people as the other levels. They are also equally vital to monitor as the other spheres of public service when the elections occur in six months.

Please remember to:

Turn out and vote.

Register/sign up for the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) in Arizona or any state that allows early or absentee balloting and mail. Arizona residents can sign up at servicearizona.com

Arizona residents, mail your General Election ballot by October 28, 2020, for the November 3, 2020 election.

Check-in with the Secretary of State’s office where you live to verify your mail-in ballot was received, processed, verified, and counted.

Know the voter ID requirements in your state.

If you can, support Clean Election Candidates with a small contribution.

Also, please remember to stay informed on all the candidates (including the county nominees) and vote for all the offices on the ballot. Also, remember to research all the ballot initiatives and vote on them as well.

Remember Election Day is on November 3. 2020.