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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
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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. 

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“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 KaineManchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders On The Money: Incomes, consumer spending soared in March | Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package | Biden cancels some border wall construction Harris, senators work behind scenes on jobs package MORE (D-Va.), who has been a vocal supporter of extending the program. Kaine and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one Schumer works to balance a divided caucus's demands Senate Intel vows to 'get to the bottom' of 'Havana syndrome' attacks MORE (D-Va.) wrote a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin, Biden huddle amid talk of breaking up T package Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections MORE (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHouse conservatives take aim at Schumer-led bipartisan China bill There will be no new immigration law under Biden, unless he changes course This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning 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 PappasHouse Democrats hit Republicans on mobile billboard at GOP retreat House votes to extend ban on fentanyl-like substances House Republicans pressuring Democrats to return donations from Ocasio-Cortez MORE (D-N.H.) and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFormer CEO Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia GOP gubernatorial convention The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel Cheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts 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 WittmanOvernight Defense: Iran talks set up balancing act for Biden | Pentagon on alert amid Russian saber rattling | Lawmakers urge Pentagon to be pickier about commanders' requests for more troops Battle heats up over Pentagon spending plans Marine Corps commandant says China, Russia to pose biggest challenges for years MORE (R-Va.) and Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Lawmakers say companies need to play key role in sustainability On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records MORE (D-Va.), as well as Kimberly Reed, president of the Export-Import Bank.

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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.