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Small ag producer-eligibility added to SBA economic disaster program


April 22, 2020

Havre Daily News staff

Montana’s U.S. senators both announced Tuesday that a U.S. Small Business Administration program to help small businesses get through the COVID-19 pandemic has been expanded to include small agricultural producers.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., both issued releases Tuesday announcing the expansion.

Daines’ release said he has been pushing SBA to allow small farmers and ranchers the opportunity to apply for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and that the Republican Senate leadership gave him credit for getting the program expanded to include small ag producers.

“This is great news for Montana’s farmers and ranchers as they head into the spring planting season,” Daines said in his release. “Ensuring our farmers and ranchers have access to this program is critical to making sure they can continue to maintain our nation’s food supply chain during the coronavirus outbreak.”

In his release, Tester took credit for helping secure the assistance in the COVID-19 aid expansion package that passed the Senate Tuesday. It includes an expansion of the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan and Emergency Economic Injury Grant Programs to include ag businesses, farms and ranches with fewer than 500 employee’s, his release said.

The release added that the expansion was not included in the initial legislation by Senate President Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and was only added after Tester-backed bipartisan negotiations.

“Montana’s family farms and ranches are the lifeblood of our state’s agriculture, which is our state’s number one industry and is vital to rural communities across Big Sky Country,” Tester said in his release. “The fact is our independent ag producers were just scraping by before this pandemic, so I fought to make sure this program was expanded to include them because these folks need certainty as we head into planting season. I am not going to let Washington leave rural America behind.”

Tuesday’s interim coronavirus relief package included $50 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Under the Tester-backed Phase I COVID-19 legislative package signed into law in early March, the SBA can issue an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration, which makes loans available to small businesses and private, nonprofit organizations in designated areas to provide relief from the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, Tester’s release said. Last month, Tester announced that qualifying businesses in every Montana county were eligible for the loans.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance per small business and can provide vital economic support to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.


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