Saying that the economy is “tough” right now is the understatement of the year. Unemployment is over 13%, unprecedented in my lifetime. Gallup data shows that one in three Americans are underemployed or have experienced reduced working hours. We have ALL experienced the impacts of this downturn in some way.
You are likely worried about keeping your company afloat or feeding your family. So, the thought of hiring government representation right now probably seems like a ridiculous proposition. I agree. However, those entities who are tightening their belts but still fortunate enough to stay in business– I’m talking to you.
Why should entities keep paying their lobbyist right now? I’ll give you five good reasons.
Access is Incredibly Limited
Every Congressional office and federal agency have approached remote working in different ways. Some offices are working remotely full-time, some part-time. Others are routinely in their offices but prohibited from taking in-person meetings.
The point is that it can be tricky to track down the right person to get the information you are looking for. If you thought it was challenging to get meetings with appropriate policymakers before the pandemic, I can assure you it hasn’t gotten any easier.
The top government affairs firms are connected. That’s why you are hire them in the first place. They have connections to policymakers that provide access and opportunities.
You better believe that throughout this challenge, they have remained connected. At the Ridge Policy Group, we have been texting, messaging through Facebook, attending virtual events and having socially distanced patio meetings.
A good lobbyist can tell you the current office protocols and priorities for policymakers. They can tell you how that office is managing through the crisis. They can share some relevant, personal information to keep you in “the know.”
Through this inside knowledge, your lobbying activities will be more strategic and successful.
Trillions of Dollars Are Up for Grabs
Unlike state government budgets, the feds don’t balance their budget. To respond to the pandemic, Congress has spent trillions of dollars (that’s right, trillions with a “T”). They have provided huge increases to existing programs for distribution throughout the nation.
You likely know about the individual stimulus checks and Small Business Administration (SBA) funds to support small businesses. But there is also money available for economic development activities, social service supports and education.
It’s a lot to keep track of. It takes time to determine if programs are providing funds directly, funneling them through states, issuing requests for proposals or dispersing through a formula. Then, of course, it’s important to ensure that your organization is even eligible to receive this funding.
Organizations didn’t have time for this investigative work before the pandemic. Now, they certainly do not. Dedicated government affairs professionals can identify appropriate funding opportunities and guide entities through the application process. If there is available funding available for your business, it’s worth a small investment to ensure that you can take advantage of it.
Uptick in Government Contracts
Increased revenue to federal programs often results in additional government contract opportunities. Technical assistance, services and supplies are all needed to support Americans at this time. Typically, these offerings are provided by government contractors.
Reports show that there is also an increase in sole source contracting. There are expedited contracting vehicles that help to ensure that services are provided quickly. There is a need by agencies to spend funds quickly, resulting in a lack of standard open and transparent application processes.
Seasoned government affairs representatives can ensure that your organization is aware of these internal agency actions. We can help your organization be front of mind for a sole source or fast-paced contract discussion.
Congress IS Still Working
Contrary to popular criticism, Congress is still passing bills. The House has set up protocols for remote voting. The Senate, always the deliberative body, continues to piece together funding bills and other “must pass” legislative packages. In Pennsylvania, the General Assembly continues to work.
With every legislative proposal, there is an opportunity to include language that benefits your cause. While fewer in number, the laws that Congress must pass will fund the government and authorize new spending for our military. They will fund necessary public works like our nation’s highways, and we may even see another COVID-19 response package.
These bills will ultimately become large packages. They will be full of Congressional legislative priorities (both funding and policy changes) that are tucked into the moving legislative vehicle. Your legislative priority will not be among Congress’ without a strong and steady advocacy strategy. Advocacy is active. It requires someone to do the work day by day. Lobbyists can do this through all different types of advocacy.
You May Just Get a Great Deal!
Finally, government affairs firms are facing the same economic hardships as every other business in America. Some have been more open to negotiating those high-end retainers to keep business or attract new industries. Many are sympathetic to the current environment and willing to start with smaller investments. They will work with you to build the financial relationship as the economy gets back on track.
Doing business with the government takes time, patience and tenacity. You’re busy running your organization and making progress that impacts those you serve. Leave the lobbying to the professionals.
This post was written for Ridge Policy Group by Becky Wolfkiel, the firm’s Director for Federal Affairs. Before joining Ridge Policy Group, Becky worked on Capitol Hill as a Legislative Director, where she made important policy and political decisions on behalf of the member she supported. Becky is originally from Pennsylvania and is proud to work for one of the top Pennsylvania lobbyist firms today.