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Nevada lawmakers push for small gaming business loans

Updated April 22, 2020 - 5:30 pm

WASHINGTON — Nevada and states with small businesses ineligible for paycheck protection loans because they receive revenue from gaming pushed again Wednesday for help in the next coronavirus relief bill under consideration by Congress.

The $484 billion interim relief bill passed by the Senate — headed to the House and embraced by President Donald Trump — includes $310 billion for Small Business Administration distribution of the popular Paycheck Protection Program loans.

But because of SBA formulas, and despite tinkering by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, small businesses that receive more than 50 percent of their revenue from gaming tables or slot machines are ineligible for the loans.

Sen. Jacky Rosen and Rep. Dina Titus, both Nevada Democrats, have filed companion legislation in the House and Senate to make those small businesses — which include taverns, bars, truck stops and small casinos — eligible for loans designed to keep workers on the payroll.

“I’m continuing to beat the drum on that,” Rosen told Nevada reporters during a teleconference call.

Rosen said she had hoped that the Trump administration would relax the rules implemented in the 1990s that prohibits small businesses with gaming revenue from receiving loans or grants. The SBA “is picking winners and losers,” Rosen said.

Titus said all Nevada employers, whether they derive income from gaming or not “should be given the same access to coronavirus relief as any other small business.”

One such small business, Nevada Senior Services, a nonprofit that provides adult day care centers and other programs for roughly 2,500 seniors, was able to keep its 80 employees on the payroll with a loan of nearly $450,000.

After initial problems with the SBA website, and reluctance from a lender, the senior services nonprofit got its loan approved just before funds ran out from the initial $350 billion tranche for small businesses included in the $2.2 trillion relief fund.

Without the loan, employees would have been furloughed and senior programs halted, said Jeff Klein, Nevada Senior Services president and CEO.

“If we were gone, these people would be headed for nursing homes, if they could get in, or to the street, if they couldn’t,” Klein said.

Titus said Nevada Senior Services is an “indispensable organization in our community.”

“Their staff and caregivers provide essential services for seniors and their work is needed now more than ever,” Titus said.

While things worked out well for the nonprofit helping seniors, other small businesses in the state are calling congressional offices seeking help in securing loans and grants to prevent their doors from permanently closing.

When it comes to small businesses with gaming revenue, Nevada is not alone. The desperation has prompted a bipartisan plea for legislation or relief through rule changes by the Trump administration.

The president has been sympathetic to that plea, but Rosen said that while she has waited for Treasury and the SBA to make a change to regulations, she has filed legislation to address it.

The Nevada congressional delegation — Rosen, Titus and other Democrats, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, and Republican Rep. Mark Amodei — has backed legislation to direct access to those businesses with gaming.

They have been joined by bipartisan lawmakers from Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado and Arizona in supporting a congressional mandate to provide access to loans for all small businesses.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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