UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State Extension is hosting free webinars aimed at helping farmers and small business owners, including sole proprietors, understand the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan program designed to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis.
Many farms and small businesses in Pennsylvania are struggling under the weight of low commodity prices and supply chain disruptions. The Paycheck Protection Program, authorized under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, could provide some relief for these crucial small businesses.
“Penn State Extension is committed to engaging with Pennsylvania’s agricultural sector and ensuring the viability of the industry for future generations,” said Brent Hales, director of Penn State Extension and associate dean in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying effects have placed significant financial strains on producers throughout the nation. The assistance of the Paycheck Protection Program may mean the difference between staying in business and closing for many of Pennsylvania’s producers during this crisis.”
The CARES Act, including the Paycheck Protection Program, was signed into law March 27. The loan program provides small businesses with eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through federally guaranteed loans administered by the Small Business Administration.
The loans will be forgiven if the business keeps all employees on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities, noted James Ladlee, Penn State Extension assistant director for energy, business and community vitality programs.
He explained that the first round of almost $350 billion in funding was exhausted on April 16, which was 14 days after applications opened. Pennsylvania businesses received 69,567 loans totaling $15.6 billion. Nationwide, agriculture and forestry received 46,334 loans totaling $4.3 billion, or 1.3% of the national funds allocated. The average loan amount was around $94,000.
“Many farms and small businesses in Pennsylvania missed the first round of funding,” Ladlee said. “The agricultural sector has been hit especially hard by COVID-19. Some farms are dumping milk, others have mandated production cuts, and all are suffering under low milk prices. Many livestock, field crop and specialty crop producers are affected by supply chain disruptions, processing facility impediments or decreased marketing channels.”
With a second round of stimulus funding that was expected to be released April 23, Ladlee said it is important for farmers and small businesses to contact their lenders and get the loan process started as soon as possible.
Penn State Extension has a growing portfolio of educational resources on stimulus-related topics, including the following, all of which can be viewed at any time:
— “Small Business Benefits and the CARES Act: What Farm and Food Producers Need to Know.” https://extension.psu.edu/small-business-benefits-and-the-cares-act-what-farm-and-food-producers-need-to-know.
— “COVID-19 Stimulus Benefits and Your Farm and Food Business.” https://extension.psu.edu/covid-19-stimulus-benefits-and-your-farm-and-food-business-webinar.
— “COVID-19 Stimulus Benefits for Sole-Proprietors and Independent Contractors.” https://www.cvent.com/events/covld-19-stimulus-benefits-for-sole-proprietors-and-independent-contractors-webinar/event-summary-42d5ff0cc69c43dfaabe369b14eff6ab.aspx?i=4dbd2898-e0c5-496d-ac2c-be0ac147e8a1.
— “COVID-19 Stimulus Benefits for Dairy Industry Farmers and Small Businesses.” https://extension.psu.edu/covld-19-stimulus-benefits-for-dairy-industry-farmers-and-small-businesses-webinar.
— “COVID-19 Stimulus Benefits for Your Small Business Update.” https://extension.psu.edu/covid-19-stimulus-benefits-and-your-small-business-update-webinar.
Extension educators Dan Brockett and Carla Snyder were instrumental in developing these educational resources, according to Ladlee.
–Amy Duke, Penn State University