Tester Backs Bipartisan Bill Providing Critical Support to Montana Businesses Hit Hardest by Coronavirus Crisis

Senator’s RESTART Act would create a long-term loan program that targets small- and mid-sized businesses devastated by coronavirus

After months of soliciting feedback from Montana small business owners about what should be done to help mitigate the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is backing bipartisan legislation to create a new loan program that will specifically target and support businesses hit hardest by the crisis.

Tester’s Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty (RESTART) Act creates the RESTART Program, which will provide funding to jump-start small- and mid-sized businesses across Montana for the remainder of 2020 as well as loan forgiveness that will reduce the pressure of the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. The RESTART program will address the shortfalls of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was often less effective for the businesses with the most need: very small companies and those that have seen the steepest declines in revenue.

“Over the last few months, I’ve heard from Montana’s main street business owners that the PPP wasn’t as effective as it should’ve been for the hospitality industry, gyms, restaurants, and other mom and pop shops who have been hit the hardest by this pandemic,” said Tester. “This bill will provide those businesses with long-term certainty by giving them the tools they need to keep the lights on until we make it to the other end of this crisis.”

The RESTART Program will provide funding to cover the next six months of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating expenses—the latter of which was not covered by the PPP—for businesses that have seen substantial drops in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is designed to provide small- and medium-sized businesses with loans to get up and running, and ensures that a share of loans taken out will be forgiven based on revenue losses in 2020, with the remainder being repaid over seven years.

The structure of the loan program is designed to reach the smallest businesses and would cover most nonprofits, veterans’ organizations, self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and Tribal businesses. Those with fewer than 5,000 full-time equivalent employees would be eligible for the program, and businesses with fewer than 500 full-time equivalent employees will receive more generous loan forgiveness in order to make sure relief makes it to the businesses that need it most.

Tester has been working closely with small business owners to create and support programs that will help them ease the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He worked to create the PPP in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help small businesses stay afloat, and he has been fighting to improve the program ever since. He recently urged the Trump Administration to make PPP work for seasonal employers, and pushed to cut red tape for small businesses applying for the program. He also successfully secured expansions to the PPP allowing electric co-ops and rural hospitals to qualify for relief.

Visit tester.senate.gov/coronavirusresources for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak.