Businesses in Billings can expect additional economic relief soon. The Senate recently approved a bill to refill the Paycheck Protection Programpart of the massive stimulus package known as the CARES Act—which ran out of funding after only 13 days. The CARES Act, totaling $2 trillion was unprecedented as an economic rescue and recovery measure; it sent direct cash assistance to nearly all Americans, and provided hundreds of billions of dollars to support agricultural producers and businesses. If you would like to learn more about the CARES Act provisions and programs, you can read the Billings Chamber’s summary or visit the Yellowstone County Economic Recovery website.  

Despite the impressive bipartisan response from Congress, the CARES Act has not proven to be equal to the moment. A recent survey from the Yellowstone County Economic Response and Recovery Team, administered April 20th and 21stshowed 71% of the 575 respondents had applied for loan assistance with only 59% having received those loans. Anecdotally, we’ve heard from numerous small businesses who have not received assistance, despite the incredible stimulus offered through previous legislation. 

Fortunately, additional relief is on the way. The new legislation totals $480 billion and includes funding for the PPP, Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)COVID testing, hospitals, and healthcare providers. 

What’s in the refill bill? 

  • $310 billion for the PPP, a forgivable loan program intended to keep workers on payroll 
  • $50 billion for the EIDL, including eligibility for Ag businesses 
  • $10 billion for the Emergency Economic Injury Grant Program, administered by SBA 
  • $75 billion for hospitals, for COVID expenses and lost revenue 
  • $25 billion for COVID testing and contact tracing
    • includes $16.3 million coming to Montana
    • includes $750 million for tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian health organizations

Casino Update:

  • Local casinos now have a very valuable resource available to them during this trying time. The White house announced that on Friday, April 24th that small casinos will now be eligible for SBA loans under the Paycheck Protection Program – the provision of the $2 trillion CARES Act that provides loans to businesses which will be forgiven if businesses keep employees on the payroll during the crisis. Previously, businesses that received a third or more of annual revenue from gambling were unable to apply for these loans. Any business wishing to apply for one of these loans can do so through their local bank or credit union. This comes at a pivotal time for Montana casinos as Governor Bullock announced earlier in the week that he would allow casinos to reopen on May 4th. Casinos that do open will have to operate under strict guidelines for the foreseeable future; they must close by 11:30 pm, and either space gaming machines 7 feet apart on center,  or unplug any machines that cannot be adequately distanced from others.

What’s next? 

Before the legislation can take effect, it must pass through the House and then get the President’s final sign-off, which he has indicated he will do. Both are expected to occur later this week, and because much of the bill is simply refilling existing programs, implementation and access to funds should come swiftly. Yet, more work remainsthere is bipartisan agreement that this bill is not a fourth and final aid package. There is still the question of funding for local governments, struggling to assess the impact revenue losses will have on public safety–police and fire departments–and other critical government services. 

In Tele-Town halls hosted by the Billings Chamber, each member of Montana’s Congressional delegation was very open to feedback and input from Chamber members and expressed a desire for input on the challenges facing Montana. 

The Billings Chamber will continue to monitor this crisis and keep you up to date on the situation as it evolves.