WESLACO, Texas – The leaders of group of chambers of commerce from across the Rio Grande Valley are asking for federal aid in the next stimulus bill passed by Congress.

No less than 17 chambers of commerce have banded to together to write to the South Texas congressional delegation asking for help. They include the biggest chambers in the Valley, including the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, the Rio Grande Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, and McAllen Chamber of Commerce.

“It is not news that Chambers of Commerce are suffering major financial harm due to the unprecedented coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the chambers write in their letter.

“Without swift action, harm will be irreparable, and many chambers of commerce will shutter permanently and be unable to assist small businesses, employees and provide essential services to their communities during this time of immense tribulation.”

Sergio Contreras

The chambers have explained to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and Congressmen Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez that, as things stand, only 501 (c)(3) organizations are included in the current Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recovery package. All the Valley chambers are 501 (c)(6) organizations.

“This emergency financial aid package leaves out Chambers of Commerce from across the RGV. Collectively we work hard to be the backbones of your respective Districts, serving small businesses and entrepreneurs, the Valley chambers write.

“Additionally, we provide critical community support services. Chambers of Commerce from across the RGV disseminate information, connect businesses to resources, answer questions, and promote success.”

Sergio Contreras, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, said Sens. Cornyn and Cruz and Reps. Cuellar, Vela and Gonzalez have all signed on to help.

“We truly appreciate the leadership being shown by our legislative delegation in Congress. They realize the important work chambers of commerce do for our business community,” Contreras said,

Sen. Cruz said he is backing the Valley chambers of commerce. In a letter to Jovita Carranza, Administrator for the Small Business Administration (SBA), Cruz wrote: “When we emerge from this pandemic and re-open the American economy, the members of the more than 6,500 chambers of commerce throughout the U.S. will be in urgent need of the services these organizations provide in order to effectuate a swift recovery.”

Cruz said that in Texas, roughly half of all small businesses belong to their local chamber of commerce. 

“Hispanic chambers in particular are working diligently to protect a community that is especially vulnerable to high unemployment. Their efforts demonstrate just how valuable these organizations are, not only to their members, but also to the health of our entire economy,” Cruz wrote.

Cruz said chambers of commerce assist in matching those seeking work with firms who are hiring; attracting skilled workers to their communities and in training local talent.

He said they also secure funding and design effective marketing strategies to quickly reclaim market share along with myriad other efforts to support their members. 

“Chambers of commerce would therefore be using PPP proceeds to retain personnel whose core job function is enabling businesses in their communities to grow and thrive,” Cruz wrote.

“If we allow these incubators of growth and innovation to go under, it will seriously delay our economy’s ability to recover from this crisis.”

Letter from Chambers of Commerce


Here is the letter the Valley chambers of commerce sent to the South Texas congressional delegation:

Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz, Congressman Cuellar, Congressman Vela and Congressman Gonzalez, 

On behalf of Chambers of Commerce from across the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), we urge you to include emergency financial support for 501 (c)(6) organizations such as our Chambers of Commerce within federal stimulus or aid packages considered in Congress. As it stands today, only 501 (c)(3) organizations are included in the current Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recovery package. 

This emergency financial aid package leaves out Chambers of Commerce from across the RGV. Collectively we work hard to be the backbones of your respective Districts, serving small businesses and entrepreneurs. Additionally, we provide critical community support services. 

Chambers of Commerce from across the RGV disseminate information, connect businesses to resources, answer questions, and promote success. 

It is not news that Chambers of Commerce are suffering major financial harm due to the unprecedented coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Without swift action, harm will be irreparable, and many chambers of commerce will shutter permanently and be unable to assist small businesses, employees and provide essential services to their communities during this time of immense tribulation. 

We understand you are exploring various options to provide aid to Americans, and we are extremely grateful for your commitment to the health and safety of our nation. 

Chambers of Commerce from across the RGV have suffered major financial losses as a result of event and conference cancellations. Furthermore, COVID-19 has added uncertainty to membership renewals from members which have been devastated due to the economic crisis. 

We ask that 506 (c)(6) Chambers of Commerce qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which allows loan forgiveness if funds are applied to payroll, utilities, rent or mortgage debt interest and/or to qualify for such benefits under a new program. 

This support helps us keep our doors open with staff to support our business community. It is essential to protect employees’ wellbeing and enable Chambers of Commerce to continue to pursue essential missions in the interest of the economy, the public, and society as a whole. 

When public health concerns recede, our economy needs to bounce back quickly and forcefully. Chambers of Commerce from across the RGV are the heart of the business community and will play an important role in helping them return to normal business operations. 

Thank you for your continued support of our country during this challenging time. We look forward to your feedback and support; we can be reached at 956-355-0011.

Sergio Contreras President/CEO
Rio Grande Valley Partnership 

Kassandra Elejarza
Executive Director
Alamo Chamber of Commerce 

Roxanne Ray President/CEO
SPI Chamber of Commerce 

Barbara Jean Garza, B.S, M.S President/CEO
Weslaco Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Center 

Brenda Enriquez
President & Chief Executive Officer Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce 

Val Champion
Executive Director
Los Fresnos Chamber of Commerce 

Cynthia M. Sakulenzki President/CEO
RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 

Ronnie Larralde
Executive Director
Edinburg Chamber of Commerce 

Yolanda Arizola
Office Secretary
Port Mansfield Chamber of Commerce 

Megan Trevino
Executive Director
San Benito Chamber of Commerce 

Chris Gonzales
President and CEO
Harlingen Chamber of Commerce 

Esmeralda Villarreal
President & CEO
Brownsville Chamber of Commerce 

Betty P. Wells
President
Port Isabel Chamber of Commerce 

Rebecca Arizmendi
President/CEO
Greater Pharr Chamber of Commerce 

Valerie Aparicio
Executive Director
Raymondville Chamber of Commerce 

Steve Ahlenius
President
McAllen Chamber of Commerce 

Baudelia Rojas
Liaison
Alton Chamber of Commerce 

Letter from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz


U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. (Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik)

Here is the letter Sen. Cruz sent to Secretary Carranza

The Honorable Jovita Carranza

Administrator

U.S. Small Business Administration

409 3rd Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Secretary Carranza,

I write to urge you to support legislative efforts to allow 501(c)(6) organizations to receive much needed relief from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). As you know, while other non-profit entities, such as 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations, are eligible to participate in the PPP, chambers of commerce, as 501(c)(6) organizations, remain ineligible. Local chambers of commerce are an important lifeline on which many small businesses are relying to navigate today’s troubled economic waters. In fact, many of these chambers of commerce originally alerted their members to this very program and have helped guide them on how to apply, yet they now cannot access relief themselves.

Chambers of commerce have suffered financially from this crisis right alongside their members. Revenues are down 30 to 70 percent, compared to March of last year, as events and event sponsorship deals have evaporated. Going forward, many chambers anticipate even more severe revenue contractions as firms sinking into the red look to jettison costs and membership dues begin to dry up. More than half of all chambers have less than 10 percent of annual revenues worth of cash on hand, leaving them a very limited buffer of working capital with which to weather this storm. Chambers have responded by furloughing staff and cutting salaries, but without federal assistance, these measures will have been in vain. Moreover, these sacrifices have come just as chambers have worked to assist their members beset by their own tremendous financial difficulties.

When we emerge from this pandemic and re-open the American economy, the members of the more than 6,500 chambers of commerce throughout the U.S. will be in urgent need of the services these organizations provide in order to effectuate a swift recovery. In my state, roughly half of all small businesses belong to their local chamber of commerce. Hispanic chambers in particular are working diligently to protect a community that is especially vulnerable to high unemployment. Their efforts demonstrate just how valuable these organizations are, not only to their members, but also to the health of our entire economy. Chambers assist in matching those seeking work with firms who are hiring; attracting skilled workers to their communities and in training local talent; securing funding and designing effective marketing strategies to quickly reclaim market share along with myriad other efforts to support their members. Chambers of commerce would therefore be using PPP proceeds to retain personnel whose core job function is enabling businesses in their communities to grow and thrive.  If we allow these incubators of growth and innovation to go under, it will seriously delay our economy’s ability to recover from this crisis.

We cannot stand idly by as chambers of commerce struggle to help their members find an economic lifeboat, only to be left adrift for their efforts.

Sincerely,

Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Sergio Contreras, president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership outside the group’s offices in Weslaco, Texas.


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