Merkley Demands Small Business Administration Provide Much-Needed Assistance to America’s Farmers, Agricultural Producers

Merkley Demands Small Business Administration Provide Much-Needed Assistance to America’s Farmers, Agricultural Producers

WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today pressed Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza to provide urgent assistance to help America’s farmers and agricultural producers navigate the economic abyss caused by the coronavirus.

Despite the fact that Congress increased funds for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program—and specifically included language making farmers and agricultural producers with fewer than 500 employees eligible for the program—the SBA has failed to accept new applications, citing a backlog in applications to process. The SBA’s failure to consider new applicants will likely keep farmers and producers from receiving assistance before the program runs out of funding.

“As you are aware, Congress explicitly made farmers and agricultural producers with fewer than 500 employees eligible for EIDL and the Emergency Economic Injury Grant (EEIG) in the recently passed CARES 3.5 package; this provision was in direct response to the SBA’s failure to allow these essential producers to participate in this much-needed funding from the start,” Senator Merkley wrote. “By failing to open up applications to newly eligible agricultural entities, the SBA is effectively nullifying the express direction of Congress to make agricultural producers eligible for these programs.”

“Our farmers and agricultural producers are keeping the United States fed during this crisis, while at the same time dealing with significant challenges of their own. I urge you to take the necessary steps to ensure they are given the opportunity to apply for EIDL and EEIG funds as intended by Congress,” Senator Merkley continued.

Senator Merkley, who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has been in consistent contact with farmers and members of the agricultural community—the lifeblood of countless rural communities across Oregon and across America—throughout the coronavirus crisis. Last month, Senator Merkley teamed up with a bipartisan group of senators to urge USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to provide urgent relief to America’s farmers.

The full text of the letter is available here and follows below. 

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Dear Administrator Carranza,

I write to express my continued concern with the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) implementation of the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), particularly in regard to the program’s eligibility regarding farmers and agricultural producers in Oregon and across the country.

It has been brought to my attention that despite the additional $50 billion in funds allocated to the SBA for the EIDL program, the agency has declined to take on new applicants, instead processing the backlog of applicants that accumulated over the last month. While I understand the SBA is operating on a first-come, first-served basis, this decision functionally renders EIDL funds inaccessible for agricultural producers.

As you are aware, Congress explicitly made farmers and agricultural producers with fewer than 500 employees eligible for EIDL and the Emergency Economic Injury Grant (EEIG) in the recently passed CARES 3.5 package; this provision was in direct response to the SBA’s failure to allow these essential producers to participate in this much-needed funding from the start. By failing to open up applications to newly eligible agricultural entities, the SBA is effectively nullifying the express direction of Congress to make agricultural producers eligible for these programs.

Our farmers and agricultural producers are keeping the United States fed during this crisis, while at the same time dealing with significant challenges of their own. I urge you to take the necessary steps to ensure they are given the opportunity to apply for EIDL and EEIG funds as intended by Congress. Please let me know immediately if you believe you will run out of funds before you are able to re-open the application portal.

Sincerely,