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MT AG urges feds to include gambling facilities in COVID-19 relief

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Posted at 4:37 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 18:45:19-04

GREAT FALLS — Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said in a news release that he is urging the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to modify hastily-adopted rules that excluded more than 1,000 Montana small businesses from relief under the Paycheck Protection Program in the recently enacted federal CARES Act.

The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) is designed to provide financial and other other relief caused by the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fox, whose agency regulates legal gambling licensees in Montana, has been in conversation with the White House as well as SBA leaders urging them to modify rules that currently exclude from the Paycheck Protection Program any business that earns more than one-third of its revenue from gaming.

According to the SBA website, the Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

The Paycheck Protection Program has approximately $350 billion in loans available for businesses impacted by COVID-19 closures. The loans would enable the businesses to continue paying their employees during the shutdown.

There are currently 1,324 licensed gambling operators in the State of Montana. They have been closed and their approximately 15,000 employees unable to work since the governor’s closure order in March, according to Fox.

In a letter to the SBA and Administration officials, Fox wrote: “I have also been advised that large Nevada casinos were able to secure rulemaking that made their businesses in Nevada eligible for CARES Act relief programs. Please confirm if this is true. If it is true, I am sure that the SBA will understand widespread belief that creating such a disparity in the rules to favor large casinos over small main-street businesses is both unfair and unconscionable during these trying times.”

“I am deeply concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on all of America, and particularly the Montana small businesses that dutifully complied with our governor’s closure order,” Fox added. “Restaurants, bars, taverns, and casinos are the economic foundation of many communities in our state. They not only contribute substantially to our economy, but they also meaningfully contribute to their communities in additional ways.”

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