Jeff Bartos has personally talked to more than 500 small business owners about their economic struggles during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
He has also been able to help, providing forgivable loans to them – and hundreds of other owners, too – through the Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund, a nonprofit he cofounded.
“Those conversations are just what you’d expect when you speak to people, whether it’s in Bedford, or Somerset or Cambria,” Bartos said during a recent telephone interview. “Those conversations are devastating, hopeful, happy, sad and run the gamut of emotions. Lots of crying – sometimes tears of joy, sometimes tears of despair.”
And, while assisting those businesses, Bartos, a Republican from Montgomery County, became inspired to enter the 2022 U.S. Senate race for the seat that will be open since U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, also a Republican, decided to not seek reelection.
“That fight that I had been leading for the last year was exactly the fight that needed to continue across Pennsylvania and in Washington – that our elected officials, time and again, do not have Main Street in their hearts and in their minds when they enact policies,” Bartos said.
“In many respects, they’re distant, removed or aloof from Main Street. That’s why you see Walmart and Target thriving during the pandemic, Amazon thriving during the pandemic, and small mom-and-pops getting crushed, closing. Main Streets empty. Lives destroyed. Dreams destroyed.”
Bartos, who unsuccessfully ran as the GOP’s lieutenant governor nominee in 2018, has been emphasizing small-business development during the early days of his campaign.
“What I took away from those 500-plus conversations is that, to a person, small-business owners love their communities,” Bartos said. “They love Main Street. They love their employees and their families. and they feel an enormous responsibility to carry on to the next generation the values and the hopes for whether it’s their street, whether it’s their borough, their township, certainly their hometown, and their county and their region.”
Bartos opposed the recent $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a COVID relief package, that received no Republican support in the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives.
“What was passed in Washington is what people hate about Washington,” Bartos said. “We have a $1.9 trillion spendapalooza that is called a ‘COVID relief bill’ when only – give or take – 10% of the bill actually is directed at COVID relief, and the other 90% is a grab bag of liberal wish list and left-wing policies all cobbled together and passed in one bill with no bipartisan work, no compromise.
“And what we’ve effectively done – not ‘we,’ but what (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer and (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi and President (Joe) Biden have done – is they have mortgaged not only our children’s future, but our grandchildren’s future to basically pay off their political patrons.
“It’s egregious. It’s the worst of Washington. It’s what people hate about Washington, D.C., and I don’t understand how this was allowed to happen. But we’ll be fighting tooth and nail to make sure that these types of egregious spendapaloozas do not happen again.”
The 10% number cited by Bartos and other Republicans refers to money that deals with the medical aspects of the pandemic, such as vaccine distribution and administration. It does not take into account funds for citizens and businesses, along with state and local governments, that are to be used to help offset economic losses caused by the pandemic.