Guest opinion: Rural location should not prevent business from receiving help

Published 6:28 am Sunday, May 24, 2020

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By Johnathan Hladik

While states are beginning to reopen in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are still hurting.

They will be for some time.

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The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress in March was a good first step in helping businesses overcome economic challenges.

Under the plan, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is paying all loans owed to agency lenders, including principal, interest and fee payments, for six months. This allows business owners to use money set aside for their loan payment to meet payroll, cover utilities and manage unexpected costs.

Unfortunately, this relief effort left out small, rural businesses with loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).

The Center for Rural Affairs has joined 64 other small business lenders in asking federal lawmakers to offer rural entrepreneurs an equal opportunity by including these same provisions in future legislation for business owners with RMAP loans.

Businesses with loans through RMAP have 10 or fewer employees, are located in a rural area and have been unable to secure funding through the SBA due to an absence of local lenders or a lack of credit. Many are in the service industry — retail, restaurants and salons — and are especially vulnerable today.

This policy has the potential to keep more than 1,000 entrepreneurs in business — real men and women on the streets of rural America who deserve to be treated equally. We urge Congress to move swiftly and address this oversight in any forthcoming legislation.

Johnathan Hladik is policy director for the Center for Rural Affairs.