Follow us on: Facebook Twitter YouTube

Protective equipment may now qualify for PPP loans

Issue Date: January 6, 2021
By Kevin Hecteman

Personal protective equipment for agricultural employees is now a forgivable expense under a federal loan program aimed at helping employers retain their workforces and places of business amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The new package of economic stimulus bills passed by Congress last month and signed by President Trump allows Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness for expenses related to personal protective equipment and to adaptive investments intended to help loan recipients comply with local, state and federal COVID-19 guidelines. Eligible expenses will include those made between March 1, 2020, and the end of the national emergency declaration.

Allison Crittenden, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, said AFBF, the California Farm Bureau and other state Farm Bureaus "have recognized during the pandemic the importance of taking necessary precautions to ensure that the workforce remains safe and healthy, and that we mitigate the spread of COVID as much as possible at the workplace."

"Farmers, in my opinion, have gone above and beyond in many cases," she said. "These are unaccounted-for expenses. So now, this is an avenue in which they could offset some of those unplanned-for costs while continuing to provide their employees with the necessary equipment to keep them safe on the farm."

Farm Bureau sent several letters to Congress and the administration "about the need to make sure that these supplies are available to farmers, but also noting how expensive they are to procure," Crittenden said.

The PPP, part of the original stimulus bill passed last spring in response to the pandemic, allows borrowers to apply for loan forgiveness if they retain their workforces and if they use the money for eligible payroll costs, rent or mortgage-interest payments or utilities in the eight or 24 weeks after disbursement, depending on the loan's terms.

Sara Neagu-Reed, associate director of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau, said buying personal protective equipment has been a priority for farmers and ranchers.

"Agriculture was deemed an essential industry from the start of the pandemic, meaning growers have had to adapt their working spaces to protect their employees—and that comes at high costs," Neagu-Reed said. "The PPP revisions in the stimulus that now include PPE resources to be covered is extremely helpful, if implemented correctly."

Farmers and ranchers will continue to do everything in their power to protect their employees, she said, "but help is needed at some point."

"This change to the PPP program will be a first step in assisting producers financially to continue operating," Neagu-Reed said.

Bryan Little, California Farm Bureau director of employment policy and chief operating officer of Farm Bureau affiliate Farm Employers Labor Service, said adding personal protective gear to the list of approved PPP expenditures will help, but adds that the gear has been in short supply in California because of high demand in the health-care field.

N95 respirators, in particular, are used by farm employees applying crop-protection materials, and state regulations require distribution of N95 respirators to agricultural employees working outdoors when the air-quality index hits 150 due to wildfire smoke, Little noted.

"As a result, the 2020 wildfire season saw dramatic shortages of N95 respirators for use to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke," he said. "N95s are normally available readily to farm employers in years when demand from medical providers is not so high, but in this respect 2021 might not look much different than 2020."

The original PPP loan application period closed Aug. 8. A second round of loan applications will open soon; the dates had not been determined as of our deadline.

For more information about the stimulus package and its impact on rural California, see Comment.

(Kevin Hecteman is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. He may be contacted at khecteman@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.




Special Reports

Features

Series

Special Issues

Special Sections