Louisiana Republicans pitch $300M grant program for COVID-hit small businesses

Local News

EAST BATON ROUGE PARISH, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — Louisiana Republicans are asking Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards to sign a bill that would send $300 million in federal coronavirus grants to small businesses, despite his view that local governments should get the money.

State Treasurer John Schroder and state Rep. Rick Edmonds stood outside a Baton Rouge area spa Tuesday to sound their request, after the virus left service industries without customers for much of the spring.

“It’s now time for government to do what it can to help business,” said Schroder, whose office would oversee the program. “If business doesn’t come back, thrive, put people to work, put food on their tables, then the same revenue that government needs to survive is not going to be there.”

“Three-hundred million dollars — not enough, but it’s a start,” Edmonds said.

The business grants would come from Louisiana’s $811 million cut of the CARES Act. For its first three weeks, only state-based businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have not received any federal coronavirus aid yet would qualify. The pool would then widen to any similarly sized business in the state.

The treasury would allocate $40 million from the $300 million program to minority- and women-owned small businesses.

Edwards’ signature remains the proposal’s last missing piece. The state’s Republican-led Legislature passed it in a virus-shortened session that ended June 1.

The proposal would allocate the remaining $511 million to local agencies, though the governor has questioned whether that is enough to fill virus-related revenue gaps at public schools, law enforcement agencies and municipal councils.

Edwards has yet to signal whether he would sign or veto the Republican-backed bill.

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