By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer
Like all small businesses, our family farmers are struggling with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, facing lower demand, disrupted incomes and an uncertain future — plus all the same monthly bills on rents, leases, supplies and other essentials.
Earlier this year, I helped pass the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program to ensure that small businesses have access to emergency funds to continue making payroll and meeting their obligations. But as the Small Business Administration implemented the PPP program and other small business assistance programs, farmers have run into one issue after another when it comes to accessing this aid. While some fixes have been made, the program still isn’t working for them the way it should.
That’s not right, and I’m doing something about it.
Last month, I introduced the bipartisan Expanding Assistance to Farmers Act of 2020 to ensure that farmers and agricultural producers can access PPP funds for their most pressing business expenses with less red tape and fewer bureaucratic strings attached.
The bill, which I co-authored with Congressman Dan Bishop (R-NC), ensures farmers and producers can use PPP loans to cover rental expenses related to equipment, land, and buildings — and that the funds spent on those expenses are forgivable just like loans extended earlier this year to other types of small business affected by the pandemic.
This bipartisan, commonsense legislation ensures fairness in one of our most important coronavirus-relief programs. That’s why it’s been endorsed by the Iowa Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation, and why American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commended Congressman Bishop and I for “providing much-needed assistance to agricultural producers.”
Whether they’re located on Main Street or down a dirt road, we must stand up for our small businesses and help them through this historic crisis. And make no mistake: our family farmers and producers are small businesses. There’s no reason they should be concerned about whether they can use their relief aid to cover some of their basic expenses.
The Expanding Assistance to Farmers Act of 2020 ensures that PPP rules are applied uniformly to all small businesses. Under its provisions, agricultural producers could use forgivable PPP funds for payments on land, buildings and a wide range of equipment including tractors, combines, forage harvesters, planters, sprayers, hay rakes and wagons, field equipment, irrigation equipment, tools and supplies.
I’ll always work across the aisle to do the right thing for Northeast Iowa, and as we work toward another round of needed Coronavirus relief, we know that updates like this to the PPP program are a must-have for our farmers and producers. Our farm families need certainty and they simply cannot afford to wait.
Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.