LYONS, NEBRASKA – Despite bipartisan support, rural small businesses and communities with loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development program will not be included in the latest stimulus package for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The updated Heroes Act, introduced Monday in the U.S. House of Representatives, does not include provisions outlined in the Rural Equal Aid (REA) Act, a bipartisan measure introduced in August by U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA).
“Rural small businesses continue to feel the effects of the pandemic and, while they are doing their best to keep the doors open, they are hurting,” said Johnathan Hladik, policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs. “We are tremendously disappointed in House leadership for choosing to ignore rural entrepreneurs once again.”
Under the REA Act, businesses with loans through the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) and the Intermediary Relending Program, as well as loans made to public and nonprofit organizations for community facilities, and to businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits expanding in rural areas, would have their principal, interest, and associated fees covered for a six-month period.
Those are the same provisions given to businesses with loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March. The newly released Heroes Act goes even further, extending that relief to SBA borrowers an additional 12 months.
The REA Act also had bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, with Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) introducing a companion bill.
Hladik said support for rural businesses and communities is critical and he encourages Congress to include USDA lendees in any forthcoming coronavirus relief legislation.
“These are the loans that keep Main Street vibrant, making it possible for small community financial institutions to grow local economies with local dollars,” he said. “With rural counties producing a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, we do not believe our priorities should be so easily ignored.”
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