Leahy, Sanders And Welch Welcome Additional Small-Business Support For Vermont Farmers, Encourage USDA To Do More For Vermont Agriculture

(FRIDAY, May 8, 2020) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D), Senator Bernie Sanders (I), and Representative Peter Welch (D) Friday issued the following statement to inform farmers and agribusinesses of newly available assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA).  The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program is now available to farm businesses in addition to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):

“After our continued efforts to secure federal support for farms, the SBA has finally opened the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to agricultural enterprises,” said Leahy, Sanders and Welch.  “Farm businesses are essential to Vermont’s rural economy and way of life, but despite clear legislative intent from Congress, they were excluded from the EIDL program.  Agriculture is uniquely impacted by this pandemic, as disruptions to supply chains, consumer markets, and the workforce have drastically reduced income for many farms.  We urge farm businesses to consult with their lenders and consider whether the EIDL and PPP programs may help them weather this storm.”

The EIDL is a loan used for a wide variety of expenses and can provide up to a $10,000 advance, which does not need to be repaid as long as the owner meets certain requirements.  Small businesses can apply for EIDL assistance directly through the SBA’s website: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/economic-injury-disaster-loan-emergency-advance.

Despite a push by the Vermont delegation, the SBA kept the EIDL program closed to agriculture during the first several weeks that the program was open.  When Congress passed legislation to provide additional funding for the SBA on April 24, the bill corrected the SBA’s decision by explicitly opening the program to farmers.  Applications are considered on a first-come first-serve basis, so farmers considering this program should apply as soon as possible.

In addition to the EIDL program, farms may also apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides small businesses with loans to cover eight weeks of payroll and are forgivable if employees are rehired or retained.  The Vermont delegation has urged the administration to provide clear and official guidance about the loan forgiveness provisions in this program. Small businesses can apply to the PPP through their lenders, including a variety of community banks.

Leahy, Sanders and Welch continued:  “However belated, this is a positive step.  But we must do far more and we must do better.  Congress included $23.5 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance to farms in the CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27, yet more than six weeks later, none of those dollars have reached a farm.  We continue to urge USDA to deploy these programs immediately, including billions of dollars in direct payments to farmers and billions more to be spent purchasing dairy and other products to help stabilize markets.  As Congress considers additional legislative responses to the coronavirus pandemic, we will continue fighting to ensure Vermont’s farms and other small businesses receive the support they need.”

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