House lawmakers introduce bill for local chambers of commerce to receive PPP funding

House lawmakers introduce bill for local chambers of commerce to receive PPP funding
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced legislation that would grant local chambers of commerce eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which aims to provide financial relief to small businesses amid the pandemic. 

The Local Chamber, Tourism, and 501(c)(6) Protection Act — spearheaded by Reps. Chris PappasChristopher (Chris) Charles PappasFormer Trump aide announces run for New Hampshire House seat Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Former Trump aide eyeing New Hampshire congressional bid MORE (D-N.H.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickDemocrats seek to calm nervous left Biden's corporate tax hike is bad for growth — try a carbon tax instead Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R-Pa.), Greg SteubeWilliam (Greg) Gregory Steube21 Republicans vote against awarding medals to police who defended Capitol Wray grilled on FBI's handling of Jan. 6 Gaetz, House Republicans introduce bill to defund Postal Service covert operations program MORE (R-Fla.) and Gil CisnerosGilbert (Gil) Ray CisnerosMORE (D-Calif.) — would allow chambers to receive forgivable loans authorized under the CARES Act. 

Proponents of the measure argue that keeping chambers financially solvent is essential, making the case that they will play a critical role in helping small businesses get back on their feet. 

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“Our local chambers, associations, and non-profits will continue to play an instrumental role in ensuring our Main Street businesses and regional economies can weather this storm,” Pappas said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation will expand crucial small business assistance to the groups whose mission it is to support them. It is going to take all of us doing our part to get our economy back up and running in a safe and orderly fashion. I look forward to continue working across the aisle to introduce common sense legislation to ensure that happens.”

Fitzpatrick noted that while recent measures passed by Congress have helped alleviate some of the financial burden caused by the virus, a number of local chambers are financially floundering due to the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses. 

“Our local chambers of commerce, and other regional and state 501(c)6 organizations, play a vital role in our communities and have been assisting our small businesses as they navigate through the COVID-19 crisis,” Fitzpatrick said in the statement. “Unfortunately, these organizations, whose assistance will be crucial to our communities’ local economic recovery efforts in the coming months, were left out of the original CARES Act package.”

Pappas — who has been the leader on the effort since he sent a letter to House leadership last month advocating for the chambers — told The Hill the measure already has more than 50 co-sponsors which will be added during a pro forma session Friday. The New Hampshire Democrat noted its seen strong bipartisan support and Democratic leadership seems open to the proposal. 

The new legislation's introduction comes as top Democrats work to craft the next coronavirus relief package which is expected to include additional funds for the PPP that they hope to pass in coming weeks.