SALT LAKE CITY — A member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet beamed when she was given a red training apron at a Salt Lake thrift store on Wednesday.
Her signature appears on much of the cash printed during the Trump administration because she was the U.S. Treasurer for two years. But Jovita Carranza identified with the customer service training program at Deseret Industries because she now helps oversee the nation’s months-old COVID-19 relief Paycheck Protection Program in her role at the head of the Small Business Administration.
“Oh, I’m in training,” she said while she put on the apron and tied it behind her. “When the PPP kicked it, it was all new. I’m still learning.”
Carranza has been crisscrossing the country in recent weeks to see how well the SBA’s loans are helping small businesses keep workers on their payroll. The loans are forgivable if employee retention criteria are met.
She stopped at the thrift store as part of a tour of Welfare Square, the humanitarian hub of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She said faith-based organizations are a critical part of the nation’s COVID-19 response.
“I was totally moved by the amount of community work done here,” she said after touring the bakery, dairy, bishops’ storehouse and thrift store.
“While you have some small businesses thriving with the PPP, sustained in their small businesses along with the Economic Injury Disaster loan program, you also have faith-based organizations like the Latter-day Saints that I visited here that provide community support,” Carranza said.
Carranza described to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, who joined part of the tour on Welfare Square, how she joined the administration’s successful effort to convince Congress that churches and other faith-based organizations should be eligible for the PPP loans.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not apply for a PPP loan, and Carranza said it has played an essential role.
“They are not asking for the PPP, but they’re providing services based on the support they received from their members,” she said. “The support that they provide is not only food, it’s not only worship, but it’s also education, development of skills and really contributing to prosperity and self-sufficiency, which is significant for this administration. The president has always talked about supporting those that are in greatest need.”
President Trump visited Welfare Square himself in December 2017.
Carranza said she was in awe after Latter-day Saint leaders described how they operate Welfare Square and 110 bishops’ storehouses throughout the United States.
“When something like COVID-19 arrives unexpectedly, we have a two-year supply of food and commodities stored that can begin shipping immediately to help those in need, and then we ramp up production to replenish the supply,” said Elder Kent F. Richards, director of Church Hosting.
For example, the Welfare Square bakery alone typically makes 2,000 loaves of bread each day. It has been churning out 6,600 loaves a day since the shutdowns caused by COVID-19 created economic turmoil.
The church also operates more than 100 trucks and trailers that regularly help supply food pantries around the nation. Since mid-March, it has sent out 15 extra truckloads of food and commodities each week. One truck carries enough food to feed 1,400 people for a week.
“Utah leads the nation in volunteerism,” Herbert told Carranza. “We also lead the nation in charitable giving, not just in donations but in volunteering time and talents.”
“That means government doesn’t have to work as hard, because the private sector, where the church is a leader, is helping people do the right things for the right reasons.”
Carranza was in the White House with President Trump the day before traveling to Utah. She was on hand when he signed the pardon for Susan B. Anthony to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in the United States.
Carranza was in Pittsburgh last weekend and also has visited Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas and Illinois in the past few weeks.
Before arriving at Welfare Square, she visited Solid Ground LLC, a Salt Lake-based contracting business that received a PPP loan. Solid Ground recently did the work on the front gate at Zion National Park.
Carranza will visit three more Salt Lake-area…