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Utah farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID-19 crisis now eligible for SBA loans

A ranch hand looks over pregnant ewes at the Skyline Sheep Co. in Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, on Friday April 10, 2020. The coronavirus is hurting sheep ranchers, not physically, but financially.
A ranch hand looks over pregnant ewes at the Skyline Sheep Co. in Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, on Friday April 10, 2020. The coronavirus is hurting sheep ranchers, not physically, but financially.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — More Utah small businesses will be able to access money to help survive the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Small Business Administration this week announced that agricultural businesses will now be eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and EIDL Advance programs. The agency’s disaster loan portal reopened after Congress authorized more funding through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act. The measure makes additional financial resources available to farmers, ranchers and other specific agricultural enterprises impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“For more than 30 years, SBA has been prohibited by law from providing disaster assistance to agricultural businesses; however, as a result of the unprecedented legislation enacted by President Trump, American farmers, ranchers and other agricultural businesses will now have access to emergency working capital,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. “These low-interest, long-term loans will help keep agricultural businesses viable while bringing stability to the nation’s vitally important food supply chains.”

Agricultural businesses include those engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching and the raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and related industries as defined by section 18-B of the Small Business Act, explained Chris Stever, deputy director for the Utah SBA district office. Eligible businesses must have fewer than 500 employees.

“Utah’s locally grown and processed foods represent 15% of Utah’s entire economy,” said SBA Utah District Director Marla Trollan. “The livestock industry alone accounts for $1 billion in commerce.”

Stever said the SBA will accept new Economic Injury Disaster Loan applications on a limited basis. Applicants must submit their loan documents through the portal established before the legislative change, he said. The agency will process the new applications as well as those filed previously without the need for reapplying.

All other loan applications will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis, a news release stated.

“It’s exactly the same loan that everyone else has been applying for,” he added. “We’re now taking new applications from agricultural businesses, but not anybody else.”

He noted that SBA is still processing loans from the previous round of applications. He said his office is working feverishly to review and process the enormous volume of applications submitted by local small businesses, and hopes applicants can show patience as they wade through all the submissions.

“We just don’t have a way to tell people how long it’ll be before they get to that point where they are in the line,” Stever said. “We just know that they’re in there and they have to know that they’re in there and that we will get to them.”

He warned that even though billions of dollars have been approved and distributed to scores of qualifying small businesses, prospective applicants should be aware there are still funds available to help them.

”Folks that for whatever reason didn’t apply in the first round of the funding or maybe you had difficulties and need to find a new lender, they should find that new lender and apply if they’re interested in the program because they are taking applications,” he said. “It seems like there are more and more lenders that are participating, so it’s not as hard to find a lender to take these applications.”

He also said one other group that can submit applications at this time to the new portal are those small businesses that used one of the first couple of versions of the application.

“What we want them to do is submit an application through the current version that’s on the (EIDL) website. It’s not like they’re a new applicant. Completely new applicants that are non ag(riculture), they’re not allowed to submit these applications,” Stever said. “If you already have one, but it’s not in the current version (then) do the current version (and) it will be married up with the earlier version of the application that you have. You’ll still be in line and be taken in that order, but it will be easier to process their application (so) they should really consider doing that.”