Congressman Austin Scott at the Coca-Cola UNITED plant groundbreaking.

Congressman Austin Scott at the Coca-Cola UNITED plant groundbreaking.

TIFTON — Congressmen Austin Scott and Sanford Bishop discussed the CARES Act on a webinar on Apr. 3.

The CARES Act was passed to help small businesses remain financially viable and to provide a strong incentive for employers to retain employees during the COVID-19 crisis with the goal of making sure those businesses can rebound once the crisis has passed, according to Bishop.

Scott said that he has been hearing from constituents.

“There have been significant questions that remain out there about whether or not farmers can actually apply for and get relief from the paycheck protection act,” Scott said. “Here’s the best advice I can give you: you need to be talking with your lender and you need to look at the SBA (Small Business Administration) application. If you can answer those questions honestly, then you need to put the application in.”

Small business owners can visit the Small Business Administration’s website at www.sba.gov to look at the different financial relief options available.

These options include the paycheck protection program, a $10,000 loan advance, bridge loans and debt relief.

Scott urged farmers to get the applications in as soon as possible.

Bishop said that that farmers and agribusiness owners he has heard  from are concerned about market losses and unexpected expenses necessary to staying in business.

“People are worried,” he said. “It’s a pretty serious time and I think that we’ve got some real challenges but Congress is doing our best.”

Scott said that farmers who grow vegetables are going to be hard hit because, unlike cotton or peanuts, their product can’t be stored.

Scott said that the goal of the paycheck protection act was to keep people drawing a paycheck from their employers rather than applying for unemployment, but added that he has reservations about the unemployment minimum being raised to $600 a week.

“I think (the unemployment aspect of the bill) has the potential to cause significant problems for us with regard to our labor pool,” Scott said. “When you raise unemployment to a minimum of $600 a week, a farm laborer runs somewhere between $12 and $15 an hour in most cases. And so at $12 an hour, that’s a 50 hour week on the farm to break even with the minimum unemployment check. I just don’t see how we’re going to…get people spend 50 hours a week working as hard as I remember the work on the farm being, rewarding hard work for the same pay that they’re going to get if they don’t work.”

Bishop said that he is very proud that the agricultural sector and South Georgia communities have come together in the face of the pandemic crisis.

“It’s a very tough time but the fact that we’re in it and committed to working together, I’m grateful for,” he said.

“I want to encourage people to pray for your country,” Scott said. “Pray for your leaders. It’s tough on us too. We need help. Pray for those that are out there trying to find the cure for this virus and the vaccine for the virus. Just know that we’re doing an awful lot of things. We’re not going be perfect in the things we do right now. We want to help. We can’t help if we don’t know what’s happening.”

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