By Anna Johnson, policy manager, Center for Rural Affairs
In the face of our public health crisis due to the coronavirus, Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provides unprecedented levels of aid to individuals and industries, including a variety of supports for agriculture.
The first is the creation of a $9.5 billion disaster relief program for producers. Funding is for specialty crop, livestock, and local food producers.
The bill also includes an additional $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation, the same fund previously used to make trade mitigation payments to commodity growers.
As of this writing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not announced how it will administer this aid.
The legislation also provides funding for small business loan programs, including the newly-created Paycheck Protection Program. Farms apply through existing Small Business Administration lenders, including many banks and participating Farm Credit institutions. Farms with 500 or fewer employees are eligible.
Lenders will accept applications through June 30, although interested individuals should not delay in applying. Visit sba.gov to learn more.
The CARES Act also provides $10 billion in funding for an existing program — the Economic Injury Disaster Loans — which many small businesses, but not farms, are currently eligible for. These loans are for working capital following a disaster, for paying fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid due to a disaster.
Finally, self-employed people, including farmers, are now eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.
Congress has already begun discussions on the next aid package. Farmers seeing adverse impacts from the coronavirus may contact their legislators’ offices to share concerns.
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Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.