The legislature's Economic Affairs Interim Committee has sent a letter to the district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration asking that the agency provide flexibility in its guidelines for loans available under the Payroll Protection Program, which Congress passed as part of the CARES Act - H.R. 748).

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided $349 billion in federal forgivable loans through the Small Business Administration and local lenders to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees that have shut down or had trouble making payroll because of stay-at-home directives related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of April 13, the SBA reported that more than 10,000 Montana businesses had applied for more than $1.29 billion worth of loans under the program.

Legislators on the Economic Affairs Interim Committee noted on an April 9 teleconference call that not all employers will be able to gear up quickly to rehire and reopen, so they asked that federal guidelines provide flexibility regarding the 8-week period over which loans are intended to help meet payroll and other business needs. The loans are forgivable if they meet federal criteria, including provisions that state 75% of the loans are to be used for payroll costs.

One of the other requests made by committee members was that flexibility be allowed for eligibility so that restaurants that have gaming machines could be eligible. Guidance released by the U.S. Department of Treasury this week extends eligibility for operations with limited revenues from gaming.

On the teleconference call the Economic Affairs Interim Committee also heard updates from state officials on unemployment applications, tourism prospects, and housing concerns. Additional updates are on the Committee's agenda for an April 30 teleconference call. Information about that meeting and the April 9 meeting are available at the Committee website. For questions or more information, access the website or contact committee staff, Pat Murdo, by email at or by phone at 406-444-3594. The website address is:,

The Legislative News.