Main street taverns are now eligible for relief under the coronavirus aid package passed last month by Congress, Sen. Jon Tester said Tuesday.
But the program is expected to run out of funding, possibly as early as this week.
Under a decision reached by the U.S. Small Business Administration, taverns that make one third of their income from gaming now qualify for assistance, so long as their gaming profits are less than 50% of their total revenue and don’t exceed $1 million.
“Montana’s main street taverns are important small businesses that provide jobs and food, especially in frontier communities,” Tester said. “I’m glad the administration heard us loud and clear and reversed course, giving these employers much-needed relief as we deal with the effects of COVID-19.”
Tester wrote to SBA administrator Jovita Corranza on April 1, asking that the administration reconsider its decision after tavern owners were deemed ineligible under the relief package.
While the CAREs Act was intended to help the hardest hit main street businesses deal with COVID-19, questions around the eligibility of some businesses, including main street taverns, quickly surfaced.
That included their application for assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program.
“These establishments are important employers and often offer the only food options in some of our most frontier communities,” Tester wrote in his letter. “These family-run small businesses must have access to the resources that Congress provided to ensure economic stability in our rural communities.”
The SBA this week said it had approved 10,372 loans for Montana small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program totaling more than $1.2 billion.
The $349 billion program to help small businesses navigate the Covid-19 crisis could be exhausted by Thursday, national media outlets have reported. Negotiations in Congress to replenish it remain stalled.
“This program is critical to keep Montana small businesses open and their workers employed,” Sen. Steve Daines said in a tweet. “We must work together and boost funding for #PPP now!”