“This Legislation Provides Small Business Funding, Supports Hospitals and Farmers, and Invests in Nationwide Testing,” stated Congresswoman Plaskett
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett, Chairwoman of the Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee, released the following statement today after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $484 billion package to support small businesses and farmers, provide additional funding for hospitals and health care providers, and invest in a widespread testing plan:
“Virgin Island families, farms, and businesses are facing unprecedented hardship as we deal with the reality that COVID-19 has taken lives in the Virgin Islands. I know businesses and workers are understandably eager to get back to work. Americans will not be able to safely get back to our lives and work until we have widespread testing to ensure our communities and workplaces are safe. This bill makes a substantial investment in the testing we need to save lives and work towards reopening our economy. The bill also includes urgent funding for our health care providers and small businesses. Importantly, this new funding makes sure that minority-owned small businesses and businesses in the Virgin Islands can get the help they need to survive this crisis.
“Presently Congress has focused legislation on relief and support to Americans and businesses directly affected by the pandemic. The first CARES Act sought to provide initial relief to states and territories in need of operating funding. I’m grateful for Governor Bryan’s letter to Congress requesting action on a host issues for which I have previously sponsored legislation or advocated for; such as cost share waivers, loan forgiveness and reimbursement for Earned Income and Child Tax Credit. The difficult environment in Washington right now, however, necessitates that the Governor, the legislature and I coordinate on 2 things: first, focusing our advocacy on one, or at most three impactful, relevant actions that will bring important funding to the Virgin Islands. Second, the local government must demonstrate in the utilization of federal funds the territory’s commitment to effective and efficient spending, self-governance against mismanagement of funds, as well as execution on a strategic plan for the development of new revenues.
“Under the legislation The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides the following: Small Business Funding – $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses. Sixty billion dollars of this will be set aside for Community Development Financial Institutions, Minority Depository Institutions, community-focused lending intermediaries, and the smallest community banks and credit unions. Sixty billion dollars in economic disaster relief for small businesses. Fifty billion to fund Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which will support more than $350 billion of additional EIDL lending, and $10 billion in EIDL grants. Eligibility for these loans was expanded to include farms and agricultural businesses. This funding and the set asides are a tremendous boost and will directly support the local banks and many of the businesses in the Virgin Islands.
“Health Care Funding – $75 billion in additional funding for hospitals and health care providers. This money will help with expenses and lost revenue hospitals and health care providers are facing during the COVID-19 crisis. $25 billion for researching, manufacturing and administering COVID-19 tests. This funding will also support infrastructure to implement contact tracing and laboratory capacity expansion. Testing remains free to all Americans due to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
“Farmers – Agriculture businesses and farms with fewer than 500 employees now qualify for small business disaster relief loans. I will always work to ensure that Virgin Island family farms receive relief during this global pandemic. This bill contains an expansion of the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Relief Loan and Emergency Economic Injury Grant Programs to include farms with fewer than 500 employees.
“Virgin Island family farms are the lifeblood of our agriculture sector, which is an important industry and is vital to the Territories. As the representative of the Virgin Islands in Congress, it was important to me that this program was expanded to include farmers because they need certainty as we head into planting season. I am working hard to ensure that all Virgin Islanders, including our farmers are not left behind.
“As this legislation is passed, we have already begun the negotiations on another stimulus package. My office is assisting on this package as we continue to work on appropriations for the next Fiscal year. I am thankful for the support of the Governor, and the Virgin Islands Legislature as I and my office begin work on the next package.”