JASPER COUNTY — U. S. Representative Jim Baird, in a phone interview on June 24, said the PPP (payroll protection program) still has $129 billion available for loans to small businesses which have lost revenue since the pandemic forced the shut down of businesses across the state and the country. After the first round of money quickly dissipated, a second round of money was made available through the federal legislators.
The money is also available to farmers and the loans can be applied for through local banks and is administered through the Small Business Administration.
In Indiana the average loan to businesses is $125,000, and he said over $9 billion loaned so far in the state, with over 75,000 loans approved to date.
The CARES Act brought $2.6 billion to the state to assist with coronavirus losses for the state, counties and municipalities. Baird said, “It’s phenomenal that these agencies were able to put together a program to help people survive this pandemic.”
He said congress is looking for opportunities to make sure people get through this crisis. They are still in the discussion stage on further stimulus checks going to the public. “We are constantly keeping in touch with the pulse of the people,” he said.
“I think Indiana has done extremely well. Indiana kept the reserve and it has come into play, keeping education going. They’ve taken a common sense approach to keep the state surviving during the pandemic.”
To assist the agriculture community, Baird said they added farming to those businesses that qualify for the PPP loans as well as programs through the USDA, which is promoting keeping a food supply for people in need and also helping the farmers who grow the food. He said a piece of that is to connect farmers to families, to get the products distributed. The Farmers to Families program has supplied $2 million boxes of food that include fruit, vegetables, milk and meat. The food boxes go to local food banks and non-profit food pantries for the distribution. “It gets the food out to the people so food doesn’t go to waste,” he said.
With the closing of several large meat processing plants due to the corona virus, work had to be done to bring the plants back up and functioning while keeping the employees safe. With personal protective equipment in place, he said, it slows the process “a bit.” He said everyone is interested in functioning at full capacity and there is still work to be done.
The pandemic has made people realize how fragile the food supply is and work is being done to protect the food supply in the future to prevent this from happening again.
Also helping agriculture he said is the ninth district court dropped its reversal on the EPA existing stocks order as well as President Trump’s executive order on immigration, which affects new visas but not those with a temporary non-ag work visa, an H2V. He said this helps with the meat plant workers because they can still get their H2V visas.
“My heart goes out to people who have been impacted by COVID-19,” he said.
On a different topic, he supports the President’s executive order for safe policing, and putting into place “best practices” requiring police agencies to be accredited through an independent accreditation process. He said there should be information sharing among police agencies to root out the “bad apples.”
“You have to remember, police officers are great Americans. They have my support for the job they do is extremely important. The idea of defunding police departments is unfathomable to me. It would create situations of lawlessness the country doesn’t need or want.”
James (Jim) Baird is a businessman and politician who serves as a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana’s 4th congressional district. Before being elected to Congress, Baird served from 2010 to 2018 as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.