WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) announced that they will be introducing the Equal Access to COVID-19 Relief Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would allow legal gaming small businesses full access to SBA loan and grant programs created by the CARES Act and prior coronavirus relief legislation. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) is also an original co-sponsor of their legislation. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congresswoman Dina Tituswill be introducing companion legislation today, co-sponsored by the rest of the Nevada delegation and several other Members of Congress, including Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV), Susie Lee (D-NV), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).
“Nevada small businesses that engage in legal gaming make up key parts of our state’s economy. These businesses should be given the same access to coronavirus relief as any other small business,” said Senator Rosen. “This legislation will ensure that gaming small businesses are given full access to participate in COVID-19 small business relief. We will continue fighting so that all of Nevada’s small business community will have access to much-needed help during this time of crisis.”
“The SBA’s relief programs have been a critical aid for hundreds of small businesses across Nevada, but the SBA’s discriminatory regulations have prohibited hundreds of companies from accessing this relief. This legislation will ensure that the Silver State’s small gaming businesses will finally be afforded the same lifelines as everyone else,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I’m urging Congress to quickly pass this bill and guarantee that Nevada’s struggling small gaming operators can get the financial support they need to weather this crisis.”
“The Trump Administration’s attempt to prevent small gaming businesses from accessing relief is hurting Las Vegas,” said Congresswoman Titus. “The people who work at these small businesses are struggling right now and it’s shameful that the Treasury Department would try to ignore the intent of Congress. The legislation I’m introducing in the House will help make sure that small gaming businesses will get much-needed relief. I’m grateful to work with the entire Nevada delegation to get this done.”
BACKGROUND: While small businesses in the gaming industry support more than 350,000 jobs in the United States, guidance released by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Treasury several weeks ago excluded any small business that derives more than one-third of their revenue from legal gaming activities from participation in PPP. This is despite the fact that, in Section 1102 of the CARES Act, the legislation explicitly states that “in addition to small business concerns, any business concern, nonprofit organization, veterans organization, or Tribal business concern described in section 31(b)(2)(C) shall be eligible to receive a covered loan” if the business has 500 or fewer employees. SBA’s incorrect interpretation of this clear line of statutory text has cut out not only commercial gaming businesses, hotel casinos, and Tribal gaming operations, but also restaurants, bars, grocery stores, and convenience stores that operate gaming equipment and derive revenue from it, along with gaming manufacturers and related businesses. After hearing from Members of Congress from states with legal gaming, SBA amended its guidance this week to raise the exclusion threshold to those entities deriving more than half of their revenue from gaming, with a $1 million overall cap on annual gaming revenue. While this was a very small step in the right direction, all small businesses should have access to CARES Act loan programs.
Last week, Senator Rosen led Nevada’s Congressional delegation in a bipartisan letter urging Congressional leadership to include gaming small businesses in Nevada and across the country in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
On April 1, Rosen led a group of Senators, including Senator Cortez Masto, in a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza asking for the agency to allow all gaming small businesses to access PPP loans, in line with Congressional intent of the CARES Act.
The entire Nevada Congressional delegation voted in support of the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.