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USDA to Provide COVID-19 Relief for Small Agriculture Businesses

September 9, 2021 by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON — The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday it would begin issuing new grant program applications for agricultural stakeholders funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Small businesses in certain commodity areas will be able to apply for both the “Pandemic Response and Safety Grant program” and the “Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety Block Grant program” on Sept. 23, the USDA announced in a press release. Businesses and nonprofits with a 501 (c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service are eligible for the PRS grant, while the SPRS grant will go to state agencies to disburse.

These grant programs are geared toward special commodity service areas that have incurred costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic but haven’t yet received significant government assistance. The PRS and SPRS grants will distribute $650 million and $50 million, respectively, in pandemic assistance provided by the appropriations act.

“As the economy continues to gain strength after the Biden administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts, USDA is working with agricultural and food businesses to ensure they have the resources and tools to thrive in 2021 and beyond,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement. 

“The funding associated with USDA Pandemic Assistance is meant to serve as a bridge from disruptions associated with the pandemic to longer-term investments to help build back a better food system. Financial relief to these essential producers, distributors, processors and other small agricultural businesses is critical to get our food system back on track.”

The USDA will award the grants to eligible small-scale specialty crop processors and producers, aquaculture producers and seafood facilities and processing vessels, the department said in a release. Meat processors, distributors and farmers markets will also be eligible.

While entitled grant applicants must submit requests for the SPRS grant to their respective state agencies for disbursement, the PRS grant will go to applicants who meet the Small Business Administration’s qualifications. The respective deadlines for the PRS and SPRS grants are Nov. 8 and Nov. 22.

Grants can only be used to cover costs incurred between Jan. 27, 2020 — when the Department of Health and Human Services first declared the public health emergency — and Dec. 31, 2021, according to HHS. These grants will cover activities associated with workplace safety measures, market pivots, retrofitting facilities, transportation, worker housing and unreimbursed medical costs.

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