During the coronavirus epidemic, U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-17th) wants small business owners and farmers to understand what benefits they receive from federal legislation, which also offers help to schools, libraries and individuals.
"These are unprecedented economic times," she said. "We have to move forward in a way that is bold and that the values our part of the country and our way of life. We do not want to leave farmers farther behind.
"We in Congress are looking at next steps to help hospitals, state and local governments, family farms and small businesses," Bustos said.
The most recent legislation, the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, is "the most significant relief package in American history," she said. "This legislation puts America’s workers and families first, while strongly bolstering the federal government’s response to the coronavirus crisis."
Bustos has held webinars with small businesses and a teleconference with Farm Bureaus to help them understand what CARES offers them.
"The primary agencies that are helping farmers are USDA and the Small Business Administration," Bustos said. "We pressed very hard on writing regulations for the SBA so farms can be classified as small businesses and won't be left behind."
The coronavirus epidemic "is one other element of uncertainty added to analready uncertain line of work," she said.
"It’s essential we provide our farmers with the tools they need to operate their businesses, keep our supply chain strong and put food on the plates of Illinoisans and people around the world," the Congresswoman said in a press release.
The CARES Act includes $9.5 billion for USDA assistance to livestock, dairy, fruit and vegetable, and specialty crop farmers, as well as local farmers’ markets, Bustos said.
Bustos is urging Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to provide help to biofuels plants. Her district has seven of them.
The legislation also provides $14 billion to the Commodity Credit Corporation, Bustos said. The CCC had paid out billions to assist farmers during trade wars. The CARES Act includes $25 million for USDA assistance learning, telemedicine and broadband programs, and $100 million in grants for broadband expansion in rural area, Bustos said.
She is asking congressional leaders to include more money to support distance learning. The money would allow schools and libraries to provide Wi-Fi hotspots to students without internet access at home.
She has daily calls with Congressional leaders to discuss what should be in the next piece of coronavirus legislation.
"There are three buckets we're looking at," she said. The first is for funds to protect people who help the sick, the second is for more money for the Paycheck Protection Program, forgivable loans for small businesses, payments to individuals, and unemployment insurance, and the third is for ensuring taxpayer money does not boost CEO pay or stock buybacks.

"We need to make sure government is here for people," Bustos said. "It comes with a price, but we can borrow money at historically low interest rates, 0 percent for the federal government. We have no alternative. We can't throw up our arms and say we're not going to be here for people. We're going to get through this."
See the accompanying story for places to find more information on help for farmers, small businesses and individuals.

U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-17th) said her website, https://bustos.house.gov, provides information about the coronavirus epidemic on these pages:
• For the Congressional response to small business and farm concerns, visit https://bustos.house.gov/press-media/ and scroll through press releases.
• For more about small business efforts, visit https://bustos.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Small_Business_One-Pager.pdf.
• For frequently asked questions, visit https://bustos.house.gov/helping-you/frequently-asked-questions.
Constituents may phone the Rock Island office at (309) 786-3406. Although the office is closed, the staff monitors calls.
To send a message to Bustos, visit https://bustos.house.gov/contact/.