By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – Warren Buffett said on Tuesday the United States is fighting an “economic war,” and that Congress must step up quickly to help struggling small businesses that have become “collateral damage” in the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on CNBC television, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc said he hopes Congress provides new stimulus soon, and extends “on a large scale” the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which was established earlier this year to provide loans to the nation’s smallest employers.
“It’s an economic war,” Buffett said. “We need another injection to complete the job. Congress is debating that right now, and I hope very much that they extend the PPP plan on a large scale to let the people who may see the light at the end of the tunnel get to the end of the tunnel.”
Small businesses, he said, “have become collateral damage in a war that our country needed to fight.”
Some pandemic relief programs are slated to lapse by the end of the year.
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers unveiled a proposed $748 billion aid package on Monday that includes $300 billion of small business relief.
Buffett, 90, said that while the Federal Reserve has done a “terrific job” shoring up the economy, the pandemic’s impact remains uneven, likening the “economic war” to when some U.S. industries retrenched to support the country during World War Two.
He said that even within the food industry, manufacturers and large supermarkets have performed well while social distancing and other restrictions have devastated restaurants.
“It just killed the economics for somebody that may have been working for decades with their families to build a business,” he said.
Buffett said Congress should act before breaking for the Christmas holidays.
“If you’re going to act a month from now, why kill off another X percent of the people who are potential successes by procrastination or arguments or political differences?” he said. “So let’s get people across the bridge.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Paul Simao)