In recent days, members of Congress – including Ohio's Sen. Rob Portman and Rep. Brad Wenstrup – and President Trump have touted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Trump signed on March 27.

This week, Portman also announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has released new information on the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan program created by CARES Act, including the application form for these SBA loans.

I wonder if our opulent politicians have even read the small business loan application. In a news release to The Highland County Press this week, Portman said, "The recently signed-into-law CARES Act included $350 billion in expanded SBA loans for small businesses to help keep their workers on payroll, pay mortgage or rent costs or fund utilities expenses.

"The great news is that if small businesses use these loans for these purposes, then they will be forgiven entirely and need not be repaid, " Portman added.

Two words come to mind on that last sentence: Caveat emptor. Or buyer beware, if you prefer.

More on that so-called CARES Act in a moment.

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Ohio’s initial jobless claims for the week ending March 21 were 187,780. The previous week, Ohio JFS reported 7,042 claims. That's a drastic change.

Ohio's all-time monthly initial jobless claims were filed in December 1981 at 205,159. The 187,780 claims filed March 21 were the second highest on record. Nearly 3.3 million people filed a jobless claim in the U.S. last week.

Think about those numbers – those people, our fellow citizens – 3.3 million unemployed and increasing each week. Many of them have worked for businesses that were forced to close by the government due to COVID-19. We get it. We understand. We are all doing "our part."

But when a Washington politician comes along and says "The great news is that if small businesses use these loans for these purposes, then they will be forgiven entirely and need not be repaid," someone better read the fine print. As always, the devil is in the details.

On Page 3 of the Paycheck Protection Program Information Sheet (, small business owners might be wise to read this little retroactive clause in order to qualify for the "free money:"

• Re-Hiring: You have until June 30, 2020 to restore your full-time employment and salary levels for any changes made between Feb. 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020.

How about that? Nowhere did our opulent politicians highlight that little gem for the small business community.

Considering the CARES Act was not signed by Trump until March 27, why the retroactive date of Feb. 15, when very few small businesses were laying off employees? This is as much of a farce as Bill Clinton's retroactive tax increase of Jan. 1, 1993 – before he was even sworn in as president.

Moreover, how many small businesses in Ohio – such as restaurants, movie theaters, salons and others that are forced to close – can possibly rehire those affected employees with no new revenue coming in?

The loan requirement that the borrower has until June 30 to restore all full-time employment and salary levels for any changes made between Feb. 15 and April 26 assumes a full economic recovery will be well under way by June. Will it? Only time will tell.

Borrowers also should read this:

• You will also owe money if you do not maintain your staff and payroll. (The Paycheck Protection Program Information Sheet does not say for how long.)

• Number of staff: Your loan forgiveness will be reduced if you decrease your full-time employee headcount (sic).

• Level of payroll: Your loan forgiveness will also be reduced if you decrease salaries and wages by more than 25 percent for any employee that (sic) made less than $100,000 annualized in 2019.

So for all of the promises of free money with no strings attached, well, it isn't all that it's purported to be.

Lawmakers would have done the small businesses owners a much better service by changing the mandate to restore full-time employment for any changes made between March 27 (when Trump signed the act) and April 26, 2020 and given them until Aug. 1 to fully restore employment.

Unlike the bloated and incompetent federal government, small businesses across the nation had to take necessary steps to survive, beginning in mid-March.

Drain the swamp? It's far too late for that to ever happen. We are fast becoming an "ism" country.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.