Republican State Sen. Tom Killion said Tuesday that he intends to introduce a bill “in the very near future” to provide zero-interest loans to Pennsylvania small businesses affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.
“As we see the current public health emergency unfold with COVID-19, we must act to provide resources for all of the residents of the commonwealth including our employers,” Killion (R., Chester and Delaware) wrote in a memo to fellow senators, several of whom have signed on as co-sponsors.
The proposed legislation would direct all state revenue from casino table games in the commonwealth to a fund within the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for the creation of a zero-interest small-business economic injury loan program. The proposed legislation seeks to generate $125 million in relief for Pennsylvania small businesses, according to the senator.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented public health emergency,” said Killion, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Senate’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. “However, the economic ramifications of this emergency are already being felt, and as policymakers, we must do all in our power to limit those negative effects and provide relief to Pennsylvania’s small-business owners.”
While Pennsylvania’s nonessential small businesses comply with the governor-ordered shutdown, Killion said, “The bureaucratic steps to get a loan at the federal level are immense. If we can get this legislation across the finish line it would be a little quicker, and in addition to the SBA” loans available in the future."
The zero-interest loans would be made through the Department of Community and Economic Development, Killion said in an interview.
Small Business Administration loans are also going to be made available through DCED; however, that’s a much slower process, as the state agency must get data from businesses showing that they’ve been hurt economically by the coronavirus.
The DCED then turns over that data to the Small Business Administration through the governor’s office. Then, “the governor requests the approval for SBA disaster loan,” said Pennsylvania Emergency Management spokeswoman Ruth Miller said.
The Department of Community and Economic Development issued a statement on Monday: “The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program will make funds available to impacted businesses. As part of the process to access those funds, the governor, DCED and PEMA are currently working with local partners and the Small Business Administration to identify businesses economically affected by COVID-19."
Senators who have signed on as co-sponsors for Killion’s proposed legislation include Ryan Aument, Lisa Baker, Michele Brooks, Wayne Langerholc, Judy Ward and Judy Schwank. All but Schwank are Republicans.
“There’s no bill number yet. It’s always a challenge to speculate about legislative time frames, but we’re hopeful this will be a priority when the Senate returns to session," said Killion’s spokesman John Kelemen.