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When Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act last week, most of the focus went to the $1,200 checks expected to be sent to individuals nationwide in the coming weeks.

However, the historic $2 trillion stimulus package contains a great deal of funding to assist small businesses, hospitality and rural areas affected by COVID-19. 

Lincoln County is one of those rural areas which will receive assistance under the stimulus package, according to U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, who said the agricultural industry could benefit the most from the legislation.

“As a farmer myself, I know firsthand the challenges that typically face the ag industry, but the spread of COVID-19 has brought on an entirely new set of difficulties,” said Luetkemeyer, a fourth-generation farmer. “Last week, Congress passed the CARES Act that will provide $9.5 billion in new, emergency COVID-19 response funding for ag producers to allow them to continue business as usual, including $200 million for the Federal Communications Commission for rural broadband deployment.

“Also provided in the bill is an additional $14 billion to partially replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation.”

Luetkemeyer also said farmers are what make the state of Missouri run, and the bill is important for their survival in the current economy.

Lincoln County is home to many hardworking farmers, and their role in Missouri’s infrastructure and food supply chain is “more important than ever.”

According to the stimulus fact sheet from the Senate Appropriations Committee, the package adds $20.5 million to the Rural Business Cooperative Service. The bill provides the necessary subsidy to make $1 billion in lending authority available for the Business and Industry loan guarantee program, which provides much-needed financing to business owners that might not be able to qualify for a loan on their own.

Senator Roy Blunt said in a release that the CARES Act had to provide support for small businesses to keep them up and running.

“Anyone from a small town knows that these businesses are the life of their community,” he said in a statement. “More than 99 percent of businesses in our state are small businesses. 

“The CARES Act includes $350 billion to provide cash flow assistance to small businesses through federally guaranteed loans. Many of these loans will be eligible for forgiveness if employers maintain their payrolls through this emergency.”

Blunt also said healthcare is the most important part of the bill with the novel coronavirus keeping most residents of the area in their homes. The bill allows residents in rural areas such as Lincoln County easier access to medical assistance.

“Doctors and hospitals also have more flexibility to offer telehealth services, which is particularly important in rural areas,” he said. “Telehealth can help keep people out of the doctor’s office, so they don’t get sick and don’t make other people sick.”

Blunt said he and Congress will continue to push and pass legislation to protect Missourians from the coronavirus while protecting jobs in the hopes the pandemic passes through sooner than later.

“While the CARES Act wasn’t a perfect bill, Congress was able to come together and do the work the American people expect us to do,” Blunt said. “I will keep working with my colleagues to do all we can to support Americans so that, when this pandemic has passed, we are back at full strength as soon as possible.”