There are a number of new programs in the bipartisan CARES Act, and I am working to make sure our small farmers know about the resources available to our community. Our farmers were already facing a difficult farm economy prior to the Coronvavirus outbreak, and as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I’ve made fighting for our local producers a top priority. When the House was considering legislation to respond to this pandemic, I worked to include provisions for our small and mid-sized farms in the CARES Act and I’m glad that the final piece which was signed into law included $9.5 billion in direct disaster assistance for our dairy farmers, apple growers, and producers who support local food systems.
The CARES Act also created the new Paycheck Protection Program which farmers are eligible for today. This program offers small business owners no-fee loans of up to $10 million to cover payroll and other business expenses, and these loans will not need to be repaid if the business retains its workforce at the same level. More information about the Paycheck Protection Program can be found on the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
Lastly, there has been a great deal of confusion around farmers’ eligibility for the hundreds of billions of federal dollars Congress provided to help small businesses. Small farmers are small businesses, and in passing the CARES Act, Congress expanded eligibility for the SBA’s emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program to farmers and other industries not normally eligible for SBA assistance. Despite this, SBA has yet to comply with Congressional intent and extend EIDL to farmers. It is imperative that farmers be able to access SBA disaster assistance as these programs can help fill the void that many farm businesses are currently feeling due to COVID-19. To that end, last week I teamed up with Reps. Anthony Brindisi and Josh Harder to lead a letter with 86 members on both sides of the aisle, urging the SBA to allow our small farmers to apply for these needed loans.
As small businesses facing unprecedented economic hardship and future uncertainty, it is imperative that our small farms be able to access these funds. I will continue pushing SBA to disburse federal assistance as Congress intended until we make this right.
Thank you, as always, for reading. Stay safe and healthy.
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