A coalition of agricultural groups and businesses are encouraging Congress to make some adjustments to the disaster loan program being made available to address the impact of COVID-19. In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the group of 38 organizations highlight concerns related to the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“We are immensely grateful for your leadership to bolster our sector through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act,” the letter states. “Additional funding for these critical programs is necessary and appreciated. However, several changes must be made for agriculture to fully participate in the SBA relief programs.”
The coalition which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), National Council of Agricultural Employers, American Farmland Trust, Western Growers, and the National Milk Producers Federation points out that less than two percent of approved funding is being used by the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sectors. The group calls for expediting the approval of SBA applications for rural lenders, providing more guidance for agricultural applications, and providing a clear definition for “primary place of residence” in the SBA statute.
“The CARES Act is a lifeline for farmers and ranchers struggling to stay afloat during this pandemic,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a news release. “COVID-19 has created an unprecedented impact on almost all markets, and farmers are struggling to pay employees while paying their own bills. As lawmakers consider replenishing the disaster loan program, it’s crucial that they ensure agriculture is given equal access to assistance.”
The letter also calls on lawmakers to increase the current 500 employee eligibility cap to better address the needs of agricultural employers. The group also suggests that the SBA loan program should provide relief for rental payments for all business-related items.