Back in 2003, I took a leap of faith and co-founded Capital Area Staffing Solutions Inc. in Augusta. I knew that endeavor would take hard work, long hours, determination, and an adaptability to succeed. What I learned is that it also requires voting for candidates who will support small businesses by pushing for legislation that will help them prosper and continue to create jobs.

That’s why I am voting for Sen. Susan Collins, who has done exactly that.

Before the pandemic struck, our economy was booming. Over the past 17 years, with both the support and backing of my two partners and the tireless work and dedication of our staff team, our business has flourished. We expanded to two locations and employed hundreds of people. We succeeded in developing an amazing customer base, and our niche became placing workers in contract to hire situations, so that at the end of a probationary period, they would become permanent employees of our client companies.

Then, within a few short weeks in March, businesses were being shuttered and revenues plummeted. Some employees were laid off, and others who were especially vulnerable to the virus understandably opted not to work. In a flash, two-thirds of our workforce disappeared.

It was an incredibly stressful time; there were many sleepless nights watching helplessly as all we had worked so long to build was disappearing before our eyes, and there was nothing we could do to control it. That’s when Susan Collins stepped up to the plate with a solution for us and many other small businesses and their employees. Sen. Collins reacted quickly and co-wrote the Paycheck Protection Program and, working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, made sure the PPP loans were included as part of the CARES Act.

We applied for a PPP loan as soon as they were made available. Thanks to the folks at Kennebec Savings Bank, our loan was funded almost immediately. These funds got us over the hump and today, our business is getting closer to pre-pandemic revenues and staffing levels. We were able to protect the livelihoods of our internal staff team and get back to the business of finding both temporary and permanent positions for our field employees. That’s good for us, good for them, and good for the local economy.

There were many other small business owners in Maine just like us who received that lifeline. According to the Small Business Administration, over 28,300 Maine businesses received PPP loans totaling about $2.3 billion. When the National Federation of Independent Business (a small business group of which I am a member) surveyed members, they found 78% applied for PPP loans and almost all were approved.

That PPP loan helped keep our small business dream alive, but more importantly, it allowed us to keep people working and earning a living, no small feat. It had an incredibly positive impact on the lives of so many people, offering a bridge of support to entrepreneurs and mom and pop businesses. Now, when the most restricted and hardest-hit businesses are still struggling to stay afloat, I know Sen. Collins is fighting to bring about additional relief.

The senator’s support of small businesses is not limited to a single program; it’s ongoing. Her vote to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a huge factor in the growth of many small businesses and the economy over the last few years. It provided the Small Business Tax Deduction and made permanent deductions for purchases of equipment. After that, the economy and hiring surged.

Sen. Collins knows small business because she comes from a small business family. She realizes they are the backbone of every community, hiring local people and contributing to community causes. She also realizes that by standing together, small businesses are a major economic force in the recovery of Maine and the nation.

Cathy DeMerchant is president and co-owner of Capital Area Staffing Solutions, Inc.

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