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April 24, 2020

Trone says this round of funds fills critical gaps

Credit: Cumberland Times-News, Lindsay Renner-Wood

WASHINGTON — On Thursday morning, speaking ahead of the vote, U.S. Rep. David Trone told the Times-News he was hopeful that the $484 billion funding package Congress was about to pass will mean good things for Western Maryland’s businesses, farms and hospitals. Since the spread of COVID-19 began to intensify and mass business closures were ordered, Trone said his office has been “literally getting hundreds and hundreds of letters and phone calls and emails” daily from scared constituents. The general sentiment he’s observed, Trone said, is that the first round of the Paycheck Protection Plan “did a bad job on getting to small businesses and entrepreneurs, and also our farmers. These small businesses just got left out.” The average award amount was $250,000, Trone said, and some businesses average $500,000 to $800,000 in annual revenue. When he worked on a small farm for 20 years, Trone said, revenue was “well under $1 million, and that’s the type of folks who are left behind.” The inclusion of farmers, who are now eligible for Small Business Administration Disaster loans and grants, Trone said, is new to the second round of funds. Smaller community banks were also left to fall by the wayside the first time, Trone said, and have been accounted for this time around. Trone took issue, in general, with larger businesses receiving funds he said were meant to help support small business. “I mean, they shouldn’t even be allowed to apply for those loans,” Trone said. “This is about helping the American people and saving job loss. The heart, the backbone of our economy is small, entrepreneurial businesses and that’s not a billion-dollar Shake Shack or institution like Harvard, which has a $4 billion endowment.” The fact that the new funds will be routed through the SBA means that they will “naturally funnel it in a better direction,” he said. While oversight committees are also being formed to review and potentially challenge loans that have already been issued, Trone said, “that doesn’t help us looking forward.” The area’s rural hospitals could potentially stand to benefit as well, Trone said, from the $75 billion being dedicated to them nationwide this time around. Many such facilities, he said, rely heavily on revenue from elective surgeries, which are not being performed by executive order currently. “So they’ve got no money coming in, and on the other side of the coin all these costs and preparations for COVID, so it’s really a double hit,” Trone said. “So here we are in a pandemic and rural hospitals are telling me and others they’re going to need to lay off people because they don’t have any revenue.” The newly passed bill also includes $25 billion to beef up testing capabilities, an area where Trone said Gov. Larry Hogan has already excelled, citing the administration’s announcement this week that they’d acquired 500,000 tests from a South Korean company. Hogan, he said, “really stepped up as a national leader and advocated well for Maryland.” Statewide, more than 26,000 PPP loans were distributed in the first round, amounting to more than $6.5 billion. Information on how many Allegany and Garrett County businesses applied for the first round of PPP funds versus how many received them was not available Thursday afternoon. Trone’s communications director Hannah Muldavin said that after checking for the same, they found the SBA is not yet tracking data by county level.