Representative Axne introduces the Rural Equal Aid Act to help with COVID loan forgiveness

There is a push in Congress to help main street businesses struggling because of the pandemic. Here are the details of the Rural Equal Aid Act.

A new bill introduced by Iowa Democrat Cindy Axne would create full USDA business loan forgiveness for six months and up to $9,000 dollars for an additional three months. She says that the measure would mirror the relief provided to urban companies with loans through the Small Business Administration.

“What I realized was that we have small businesses in our rural communities that had taken out loans through the USDA in the ways that they can, multiple ways, but didn’t receive that same loan relief. Now, our main street businesses in rural America are suffering as well, and I thought it was only equitable that they had the same type of loan relief that those other small businesses had,” Rep. Axne states. “So, we put this piece of legislation together to ensure we saw equity between urban and rural businesses.”

The legislation would cover borrowers under USDA’s community facilities loans, business and industry loans, the intermediary relending program, and the rural microentrepreneur assistance program. She says that many of the borrowers in these programs have not been able to take advantage of some of the other relief created by Congress.

“During COVID, we’ve seen so many small businesses really struggle to stay afloat and certainly we’ve tried to do what we can to support them, much of that tho has gone to businesses that are in urban areas that the Paycheck Protection Program, that the Small Business Administration helped us put through when we put that into our COVID bills,” she notes.

Rep. Axne hopes to see the language included in the COVID package currently being negotiated: “I think this is going to be pretty much our last chance at getting a big COVID package through. You can only use reconciliation for this purpose once, and we know that we have really got to do a lot right now. We didn’t do enough at the end of last year-- we fell short.”

For rural Iowa to truly get back to business, she says that more vaccines are needed.

“We are seeing difficulty getting the vaccine out to people because so many of the structures that were set up across the country use large companies, like Walgreens or CVS... To help with disseminating the vaccine, those aren’t available in rural Iowa or in most of rural America. They’ll have a small provider, a small pharmacist; that’s who we need to have get the vaccine, that’s who people trust, that’s where they’ll go, and that’s who is going to be able to give them the shot in the arm they need,” she adds.

She goes on to say that she is also set to discuss more of the specific rural relief needed with the Biden administration later this week.