Senate fails to advance COVID-19 relief package

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Sunday, September 13, 2020

The U.S. Senate on Sept. 10 failed to advance a $300 billion COVID-19 relief package that contained $20 billion in ag support and an expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program, two provisions that could have provided indirect relief to biofuel producers. The vote of 52 to 47 was short of the 60 votes needed to advance the relief package.

The Senate released details of the package earlier this week. The bill, titled “Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act,” did not include dedicated relief for biofuel producers. It did, however, aim to provide the USDA with $20 billion for farm assistance and provide the Secretary of Agriculture with broad authority to address COVID-19-related impacts on farmers, ranchers, growers and processors. That funding could be used to support producers, growers and processors of specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry.

While the bill does not specifically mention ethanol or biodiesel, similar language was included in a Senate relief package released in July. At that time, lawmakers said biofuel producers would be considered eligible entities for the USDA relief funding.

The legislation also aimed expand the PPP, allowing certain small businesses to quality for a second PPP forgivable loan. Data released by the U.S. Department of Treasury  shows that many fuel ethanol plants have accessed the PPP program. According to that data, approximately 70 businesses categorized under NAICS Code 325193 received PPP loans ranging in value from $150,000 to $2 million. Companies identified by NAICS Code 325193 are primarily engaged in the manufacturing of nonpotable ethyl alcohol. Fuel ethanol production falls under the category.