By Dan Nordberg, SBA Director of Rural Affairs
The devastating impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has tested the will of millions of businesses and cooperatives throughout our nation, but help is on the way. Congress recently passed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which includes over $310 billion in new funding to help small businesses support their payroll costs and extended eligibility for this program to include telephone cooperatives organized under section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code.
This program is one of the largest economic recovery efforts in our nation’s history and was built in just seven days, a true testament to the American spirit and demonstration of what is possible when we come together to serve a higher cause. By leveraging the power of private lenders, the PPP provides businesses with the capital and certainty they need to retain their employees and continue serving our communities during these challenging times.
SBA understands that many telephone co-ops are exempt from federal taxation under section 501(c)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code, but that they also provide a critical utility service, and distribute savings to their member-owners. As such, SBA has determined that telephone cooperatives will be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, provided they meet the size standards for PPP, and are based in the United States. You can find out more about the SBA size standards, and the PPP program, by visiting sba.gov.
In addition to this effort, the SBA also has over 690 men and women who work in 68 field offices across the nation serving as the agency’s “boots on the ground” and the primary contact for delivering SBA’s programs directly to communities, businesses, and stakeholders. SBA staff work hand in hand with our resource partners at the local level, including Small Business Development Centers, SCORE counselors, Women’s Business Centers, and Veterans Business Outreach Centers to serve the needs of rural small businesses. You can locate your nearest SBA office or resource partner by visiting sba.gov/local-assistance.
In response to the impact that COVID-19 has had on our country’s rural communities, SBA’s District Offices have been working tirelessly to serve rural small businesses. District staff are collaborating closely with chambers of commerce, local governments, and elected officials to provide information on SBA programs via virtual townhalls, webinars, and Facebook chats. The SBA has also worked to bring in additional lenders to provide PPP loans including credit unions, farm credit lenders, USDA lenders, community banks, and others that serve the rural North Dakota business community.
The PPP program is here to assist telephone co-ops in delivering critical services to our communities at this time. While there’s certainly more work to be done, the SBA will continue to fight for America’s businesses until this battle is won. For additional resources on the programs mentioned, visit sba.gov.