Ramos urges legal protections for small businesses following COVID-19 health guidelines during the pandemic

The Emergency Service Act extends some protection from civil liability during times of crisis.

For immediate release:

HIGHLAND—Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) announced today he is seeking liability relief for small businesses in collaboration with a coalition of 22 bipartisan legislators, local small businesses and business organizations (local and statewide) to support assistance to small businesses.

Ramos said he and the coalition are urging Governor Gavin Newsom to take swift action to protect enterprises with 25 or fewer employees from being sued during the emergency if they follow state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

The San Bernardino County lawmaker said he has requested the governor via a Letter Requesting Relief for Small Businesses (PDF) to act through executive order or by collaboration with the Legislature to provide assistance to small business owners. Ramos observed that the governor and Legislature have three options to offer relief from litigation similar to the state Emergency Service Act.

The Emergency Service Act extends some protection from civil liability during times of crisis. “The governor can provide this timely and temporary protection through executive order, or by approving legislation that would take effect promptly (urgency legislation) or by approving appropriations (trailer bill) in the 2020-21 state budget,” Ramos said. He added such safeguards are needed as many of California’s 4 million small businesses are struggling. They also contribute significantly to the state economy and are essential to the state’s fiscal recovery.

District-area businesses and nonprofit organizations supporting the undertaking are AuditTEL, TDX International, Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind, Habitat for Humanity, Jovis Diner, W. Wood & Associates Development Inc., iStyle, Citograph Printing, Pool Club Sports Bar & Grill, Gracie Humaita Jiu Jitsu and Big Mike’s Rooter & Plumbing. Also in support are the San Bernardino Area and Mentone Chambers of Commerce, Inland Action, the Cities of Highland, Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands.

Ramos said small businesses deserve a safe harbor if they are acting within government health and safety guidelines. “Removing threats to small businesses during this crisis means ensuring a strong state recovery by saving jobs and preserving job creators,” Ramos said. “So many small business operators are in grave danger of failing because of the pandemic. Removing the threat of liability may supply a lifeline they need to reopen or continue operating,” he stated. The need for action by the governor is heightened by additional losses a number of businesses have sustained in recent days from arson, looting and vandalism.  

The legislator cited a MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey released in early April revealing that across the country one in four small businesses temporarily shut down because of the pandemic. The study also reported that 43 percent of the surveyed businesses estimated they had less than six months before being forced to shutter permanently. Eighty-nine percent of them had fewer than 20 employees, according to the study.

“This is an alarming report, especially when the U.S. Census Bureau and the Kaufman Foundation found that net job growth was strongest among businesses with less than 20 employees,” Ramos stated. He added that the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy reported that excluding sole proprietorships, “businesses with less than 20 employees comprise over 88 percent of all businesses and employ approximately 18 percent of all workers.“ In addition, two other studies—one by the U.S. Census Bureau and another by the Kaufman Foundation—found that net job growth was strongest among businesses with less than 20 employees. 

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Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.