Forgotten farmers ask Congress for relief in next COVID-19 loan package

National News

WASHINGTON D.C. (Nexstar) — Only a tiny fraction of American farmers have been able to access coronavirus relief through the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loan.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking Congress to change the language in the next coronavirus relief package to include all farmers and extend access to PPP loans through harvest.

R.J. Karney with the American Farm Bureau Federation says farmers are running out of fuel — fast. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn says Congress is trying to respond at unprecedented speed.

Cornyn says Congress quickly created the paycheck protection program in April to help small businesses stay open, but Karney says a majority of farmers were left out.

“The way the regulations are currently written, if a sole proprietor has a zero or a negative net farm income, they are essentially ineligible to participate in the paycheck protection program,” Karney said.

Karney says 86% of U.S. farmers, who identify as self-employed and lost money last year because of the trade wars, don’t qualify for a PPP loan. He’s asking Congress to change the wording of who qualifies.

“This would significantly increase the amount of sole proprietors that would be eligible for the paycheck protection program,” Karney said.

“We knew that doing something that big and that fast…it wasn’t going to be perfect, but we knew it was an emergency,” Cornyn said.

Cornyn says replenishing and revising the PPP program is one of Congress’ priorities as they return to Washington D.C. this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he hopes to pass the next coronavirus relief bill by the end of the month.

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