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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (1st District of Nebraska)

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said he enjoyed being in Madison County on Friday to meet with small-business owners.

One of the things he and business owners discussed was the Paycheck Protection Program, which is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. If certain criteria are met, including that the funds were necessary because of COVID-19, it is forgivable.

Fortenberry’s stops included downtown Norfolk and Madison. Fortenberry said he heard firsthand how businesses were successful through the PPP loan, bridging the gap “during this dramatic time for small businesses.”

“This program has been a lifesaver. With it, we did three things, 1. Protect our health care infrastructure. 2. Protect individuals and families and 3. Protect small businesses in the first relief package,” he said.

By working with small-business associations and the community banking infrastructure, Nebraska was positioned to become the leader per capita in these loans. The official estimate is that the program saved 300,000 jobs in Nebraska, he said.

Norfolk Mayor Josh Moenning said he appreciates the leadership of Fortenberry.

“At the onset of the pandemic, main street was in crisis mode. Small businesses took the brunt of the hardship from the restrictions, I think,” Moenning said.

“I want to thank and commend Congressman Fortenberry for his quick, decisive and collaborative leadership in regards to the PPP,” he said. “That was a lifeline to these small main street businesses. It needed to happen quickly and it did and the congressman was one of the first out of the gate to do the education piece on it.

“It was a big, complicated program, and those living in small businesses day-to-day didn’t know where to turn.”

Within a week of some of the shutdowns, Fortenberry set up a virtual small-business listening session, Moenning said. It helped people to learn how they could take part in the program, he said.

As evidence of how well it worked, Nebraska has the highest participation rate of the PPP in the nation, Moenning said.

“That was because of leadership, bipartisan leadership, and we thank Congressman Fortenberry for that,” Moenning said.

Fortenberry, a Republican, faces state Sen. Kate Bolz, a Democrat, in the 1st District congressional race.

Fortenberry said he also wanted to hear Friday from the businesses on how they are doing. There probably will be another PPP package coming, he said.

Fortenberry said he was impressed with Norfolk’s revitalized downtown, including boutiques and specialty product stores. He said with digital advancements, people can work and live away from major cities.

“You can live here in Norfolk now and just about do anything around the world with ease,” he said. “There’s lot of good reasons to live in Norfolk because of livability, because of local leadership and because of the values proposition here. Look at your flourishing downtown.”

With less than three weeks before the election, Fortenberry, who has represented Nebraska’s 1st Congressional District since 2005, said he feels appreciative of Nebraskans’ trust. “They’ve entrusted me to work hard, discern decisions on their behalf and lead our country. It’s tough work, and one of the first principles of this work is you have to show up.”

Fortenberry, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said he’s always taken the perspective that he serves to build Nebraska and lead America.

“I’ve worked hard to advance in Congress. I’m what’s called the ranking member of agricultural appropriations on the committee of appropriations. We support farmers and ranchers. That’s what we do through that committee.”