WASHINGTON – Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH) today joined colleagues Cindy Axne (D-IA), Austin Scott (R-GA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Jared Golden (D-ME) in introducing bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would extend to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) loan borrowers the same relief already provided to Small Business Administration (SBA) borrowers. The Rural Equal Aid Act would provide 6 months of payments for existing USDA Rural Development program borrowers, helping relieve financial strain during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ohio’s rural communities have been some of the hardest hit by this pandemic, and their needs cannot be overlooked in our relief efforts,” said Balderson, the newest member of the House Committee on Agriculture. “It’s critical they have equal access to relief through USDA to ease the burden caused by recent financial losses so they can remain strong through this crisis and beyond.”
In March, Congress passed the CARES Act, which included 6 months of payments for borrowers with existing SBA loans. This same relief was not given to borrowers with loans through the USDA Rural Development program. The Rural Equal Aid Act would make available equal relief for rural small businesses and nonprofits through four USDA loan programs:
- Community Facilities loans made to public and nonprofit organizations for essential community facilities like hospitals, libraries, child care and community centers, and public facilities like fire stations or town halls.
- Business and Industry loans made to small businesses, cooperatives, and nonprofits to develop and expand businesses in rural areas.
- Two loan programs made through small local intermediaries. The borrowers from these programs are often unable to access other credit, and may have been unable to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program because they don’t have existing banking relationships.
- The Intermediary Relending Program, which provides loans of no more than $250,000 made to borrowers who are unable to get credit elsewhere, but need capital to get started or expand their business. These loans average less than $100,000 and support small local businesses.
- The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP), which offers loans of no more than $50,000 through local nonprofits. These loans are available to businesses with no more than 10 employees, making them a frequent choice for entrepreneurs looking for capital to start up a new business. In addition, RMAP loans are frequently used by women entrepreneurs.
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Angus King (I-ME), David Perdue (R-GA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Chris Coons (D-DE). The Rural Equal Aid Act is supported by the American Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers Association, National Rural Health Association, National Rural Housing Coalition, and the National Association of Towns and Townships.
Balderson was recently tapped to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture, a move that comes after Balderson helped usher the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) through House passage and helped establish the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
Balderson, a Zanesville, Ohio, native and longtime supporter of Ohio’s agriculture sector, has also pushed for the extension of rural broadband internet service, an issue overseen by the Agriculture Committee.
He and Axne have a strong record of bipartisan work to expand telehealth services – during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
In recent months, Balderson has also pushed for relief and flexibility for rural hospitals in the wake of the pandemic.