PHOENIX (KVOA) — On Tuesday, a coalition of community organizations, led by Common Cause, CASE Action, and UNITE HERE Local 11, and more than 500 local small businesses held a press conference calling on Sen. Sinema (D-AZ) to pass the For the People Act (H.R.1/S.1), Common Cause announced in a press release.
“All across America and especially in Arizona, partisan politicians have done everything they can to limit the ability for poor people and people of color to vote,” said Michael Kelly, owner of Kelly Consulting Alliance and former assistant to the Mayor of Phoenix Skip Rimsza. “If the For The People Act does not pass, democracy as we know it is dead.”
During the event, business leaders presented a letter signed by over 500 local businesses urging Sen. Sinema to ensure the For The People Act is passed and sent to President Biden’s desk. Shortly after the event, a group of small business owners delivered the letter to Sen. Sinema’s Phoenix district office. Senator Sinema is a co-sponsor of the bill.
“The For the People Act is not just a check on an Arizona Legislature that is making it harder to vote, it’s also a check on a legislature that makes it more and more difficult for small businesses to play on a level field with [big corporations],” said Arizona State Representative Athena Salman (D-AZ) and the daughter of small business owners. “That is what is at stake. We need Senator Sinema to step up and stop playing lip service.”
Small businesses make up ninety percent of all Arizona businesses and employed over one million workers prior to the pandemic, the release said. Common Cause stated, "Through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, created by the CARES Act, millions of dollars went to large corporations while small businesses struggled to access federal funding. Nationwide, 600,000 small businesses have permanently shuttered since March 2020, including over one-sixth of businesses1/6 in Arizona."
“When individuals are denied their right to vote they are being denied their basic human rights; when individuals are afraid to exercise their right to vote because of intimidation, they are being denied their basic human rights,” said Dr. Karen Hardin, President of the Maricopa County Branch NAACP. “The For the People Act guarantees one voice, one vote for everyone, regardless of a person’s political affiliation.”
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy,” said Marilyn Wilbur, veteran and owner of Uniquely You Gifts. “But I saw millions of dollars of Paycheck Protection Program loans go to big corporations [during the pandemic] while my own hairdresser in Surprise couldn’t get even one PPP loan. The same politicians who prioritized big business over everyday people are trying to silence our voices in elections. And when corporate money has a stronger voice in elections than average people like you and me, we see policies that benefit them and never us.”
Those who wrote and support the "For The People Act" say it would protect voting rights by prohibiting gerrymandering and unnecessary voter roll purges, guaranteeing transparency for election contributions, protecting the right to vote by mail, and automatically registering eligible Americans to vote. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation and it now awaits a vote in the U.S. Senate before President Biden can sign the bill into law.
“While my businesses suffered through the pandemic, Fortune 500 companies and companies run by the wealthy and politically connected, largely became wealthier; many of them even receiving the PPP loans intended for small businesses like mine,” said Portia Jones, owner of So Damn Good Cuisine and Mad Skillz Salon. “The solution here is simple. We need our voices—the voices of our community—to be heard, not to be overshadowed by dark money and corporate lobbyists.”