Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and a half dozen Democratic and Republican colleagues have proposed legislation that would allow farmers, ranchers and sole proprietors of businesses to apply retroactively for increased coronavirus relief payments.

The original Paycheck Protection Program signed into law on April 24, 2020, allocated $484 billion for forgivable loans to businesses to offset lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program was extended late last year and the Small Business Administration is offering loans through May 31.

Many small businesses were not able to take full advantage of previous PPP loans because the calculations were based on their net income, decreasing their benefits. The changes Cardin and his fellow senators are proposing would allow a recalculation of loans based on gross income, retroactive to March 27, 2020.

“The Biden administration has taken steps to make PPP more useful to farmers, ranchers, and sole proprietors, so making the changes retroactive is a matter of basic fairness,” Cardin said in a statement. “Congress must pass this bill as quickly as possible so eligible small businesses have time to secure the aid they need before PPP closes on May 31.”

Many of the senators co-sponsoring the bill represent states where farming is a major segment of their economies. Farmers and ranchers also stepped up during the pandemic to ensure food supplies were not interrupted, the lawmakers noted.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, said in a statement that “it’s important that we continue our work across party lines and pass this legislation now so our hard working farmers and small businesses have the support they need to get past this economic crisis and move forward.” 

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, said that many farm and ranch partnerships were not eligible to receive the benefits that came from changes the SBA made in December.

“When it comes to PPP, we must ensure no farmers or ranchers are left behind, and I am pleased to join my colleagues on this important legislation,” Marshall said.

Other co-sponsors include Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-New York, and chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, has introduced a similar bill in the House.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest agriculture organization, has been pressing for changes to the PPP.

Before Cardin and the other senators proposed their bill, the Farm Bureau’s congressional relations director, Emily Buckman, said in March that the SBA “has been denying loans to self-employed farmers and ranchers who operate in a partnership, or as sole-owner LLCs.”

“In many ways, this denial has caused picking winners and losers among those who are self-employed,” Buckman said.

This article originally appeared on on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

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