Protective equipment can now benefit from PPP loans
By Kevin Hecteman
Personal protective equipment for farm workers is now a reimbursable expense under a federal loan program to help employers retain their workforce and places of business amid the pandemic of COVID-19 in progress.
The new package of economic stimulus bills passed by Congress last month and signed by President Trump allows for the cancellation of the Paycheck Protection Program loan for expenses related to personal protective equipment and adaptive investments to help loan recipients comply with local, state and federal COVID-19 guidelines. Eligible expenses will include those incurred between March 1, 2020 and the end of the declaration of national emergency.
Allison Crittenden, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the AFBF, California Farm Bureau and other state agricultural offices “have recognized during the pandemic the importance of taking precautions. necessary to ensure that the workforce remains safe and healthy, and that we mitigate the spread of COVID in the workplace as much as possible. “
“Farmers, in my opinion, have gone above and beyond in many cases,” she said. “These are unrecorded expenses. So now this is an avenue in which they could offset some of these unforeseen costs while still providing their employees with the necessary equipment to keep them safe on the farm.”
Farm Bureau has sent several letters to Congress and the administration “on the need to ensure that these supplies are available to farmers, but also on their cost of purchase,” said Crittenden.
The PPP, part of the original stimulus bill passed last spring in response to the pandemic, allows borrowers to apply for loan forgiveness if they keep their workforce and use the money for eligible labor costs, rent or mortgage interest payments or utilities within eight or 24 weeks after disbursement, depending on loan terms.
Sara Neagu-Reed, associate director of federal policy at the California Farm Bureau, said purchasing personal protective equipment is a priority for farmers and ranchers.
“Agriculture has been seen as a critical industry from the onset of the pandemic, which means producers have had to adapt their workspaces to protect their workers – and that comes at a high cost,” Neagu-Reed said. “The PPP revisions of the Stimulus Package which now include the PPE resources to be covered are extremely useful, if implemented correctly.”
Farmers and ranchers will continue to do everything in their power to protect their workers, she said, “but help is needed at some point.”
“This change to the PPP program will be a first step in helping producers financially to continue their activities,” said Neagu-Reed.
Bryan Little, director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau and chief operating officer of the Farm Bureau’s subsidiary, Farm Employers Labor Service, said adding personal protective equipment to the list of expenses Approved PPP would help, but adds that equipment has been scarce in California. due to the high demand in the field of health.
N95 respirators, in particular, are used by farm workers applying crop protection materials, and state regulations require the distribution of N95 respirators to farm workers working outdoors when the air quality index reached 150 due to smoke from wildfires, Little noted.
“As a result, the 2020 wildfire season has seen a dramatic shortage of N95 respirators to use to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke,” he said. “N95s are normally readily available to agricultural employers in years when demand from medical providers is not that high, but in this regard, 2021 might not be much different from 2020.”
The initial PPP loan application period ended on August 8. A second round of loan applications will open soon; the dates had not been determined by our deadline.
For more information on the stimulus package and its impact on rural California, see Commentary.
(Kevin Hecteman is Associate Editor of Ag Alert. He can be contacted at [email protected])
Permission for use is granted, however, a credit should be given to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this article.