Trade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program

Trade groups make lobbying push to be included in small business loan program
© Getty Images

The group that represents trade associations lobbied this week for professional and advocacy organizations struggling through the coronavirus to be eligible to receive small business loans.

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) hosted a virtual fly-in to call for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so 501(c)(6) organizations can receive loans.

501(c)(6) organizations, which include trade associations, professional societies and local chambers of commerce, were left out of the program when Congress passed its $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill in March. 


“These groups are finding themselves in extremely challenging financial situations as a result of the pandemic,” Chris Vest, ASAE director of public policy, told The Hill. “As the unemployment rate has skyrocketed, other revenue sources for associations are down as well, including membership dues, and things like advertising, and sponsorships."

The group spoke to Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineSenators discussing Trump censure resolution Overnight Defense: Army details new hair and grooming standards | DC National Guard chief says Pentagon restricted his authority before riot | Colorado calls on Biden not to move Space Command Senate GOP signals it's likely to acquit Trump for second time MORE (D-Va.), who has been a vocal supporter of extending the program. Kaine and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerModerates vow to 'be a force' under Biden The next pandemic may be cyber — How Biden administration can stop it Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (D-Va.) wrote a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHumanist Report host criticizes 'conservative Democrats:' They 'hold more power' than progressives Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' Biden's Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHumanist Report host criticizes 'conservative Democrats:' They 'hold more power' than progressives Bush-, Obama-era officials urge Senate to swiftly confirm Biden's DHS pick OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court upholds ruling invalidating Dakota Access, but doesn't shut down pipeline | Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency | Biden seeks to bolster consultation with Indian Country MORE (D-N.Y.) in April urging changes to the PPP to include 501(c)(6) organizations.

“Many 501(c)(6)s are struggling because of significant declines or uncertainty in their membership dues resulting from COVID-19, and many have had to cancel major events that they rely on for funding,” the senators wrote.

Rep. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasPappas fends off challenge from ex-Trump official in NH Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Trump-backed candidate wins NH GOP primary to take on Pappas MORE (D-N.H.) and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate committee advances Biden's DHS pick despite Republican pushback Google suspends donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying election The Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis MORE (R-Texas) have also proposed legislation to allow local chambers of commerce and trade associations to access loans.

During the virtual fly-in, ASAE members also spoke to Reps. Rob WittmanRobert (Rob) Joseph WittmanTop Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results House GOP rejects unanimous consent on ,000 direct payments MORE (R-Va.) and Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerHillicon Valley: Intelligence agency gathers US smartphone location data without warrants, memo says | Democrats seek answers on impact of Russian hack on DOJ, courts | Airbnb offers Biden administration help with vaccine distribution House lawmakers reintroduce bipartisan bill to weed out foreign disinformation on social media 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack MORE (D-Va.), as well as Kimberly Reed, president of the Export-Import Bank.


ASAE is highlighting the issue now ahead of the PPP expiration on June 30. The group estimates that 34 percent of trade associations will experience a $100,001 to $500,000 loss in annual revenue due to cancellations or modifications to in-person conferences, expos and events.

“The bottom line for us is that our members and our constituencies in the non-profit community get the relief that they need,” Jeff Evans, ASAE associate director of public policy, told The Hill. 

501(c)(60 organizations were not originally included in the program because of how they are perceived, ASAE stressed.

“I think there may have been a misconception that 501(c)(6) organizations are primarily lobbying groups. Yes, it’s true that advocacy is an important function that many associations perform but the reality is that the majority of our resources and efforts goes towards educating the workforce, professional certifications, and creating product and safety standards,” Vest said. 

ASAE itself has more than 100 employees and only four of them are lobbyists. Evans noted that associations, on average, spend about 5 percent of their total resources on lobbying.

They also think that Congress “assumed our community was flush,” Evans said, due to membership dues paid into trade associations and reserve funds associations may have. 

House Democrats’ have attempted to stop lobbyists from receiving PPP loans all together.

The $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which is unlikely to pass the Senate, includes a provision that prevents any business that has a lobbyist on its payroll from counting that lobbyist in calculating payroll costs in seeking PPP loans.

Businesses with lobbyists on their payroll can still apply for PPP loans, which are available to companies with up to 500 employees, but any lobbyist would not count as an employee. 

ASAE also lobbied during the fly-in for the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act, which would create a program to compensate businesses for losses due to pandemics, and the Skills Renewal Act, which would give furloughed or laid off workers a tax credit to apply to training or career development.