IDAHO FALLS — Several members of Congress have stepped up to the plate to help those suffering from the effects of COVID-19.
The Save Minor League Baseball Task Force was created in December to advocate for the communities that Major League Baseball wants to dissolve. On Wednesday, the task force introduced bipartisan legislation to extend additional federal coronavirus relief to small businesses, including Minor League Baseball teams, who face exacerbated financial stress because of the public health precautions necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, a news release states.
The task force is comprised of co-chairs Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Massachusetts, Rep. David McKinley R-West Virginia and Rep. Max Rose, D-New York.
“The Chukars aren’t able to play their regular schedule as of now and that means no fans, no ticket revenue and many people tied to the organization are not working,” Simpson said in an emailed statement to EastIdahoNews.com. “While the legislation isn’t exclusively geared towards Minor League teams, it does provide the Chukars an opportunity to access loans so they can make the essential payments, including payroll.”
The news release explains despite federal funding for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the newly created Paycheck Protection Program, small businesses that rely on large gatherings and community-based events remain on the verge of going out of business.
This legislation creates a federal loan program of at least $1 billion through the Federal Reserve to provide loans to community-owned or private small businesses with less than $35 million in revenue and that are contractually obligated to make lease, rental or bond payments on publicly-owned sports facilities, museums or community theaters, according to the news release.
The funds from the loans would be solely reserved for defined uses such as:
- Facility rent, lease, or bond payments or other obligations, including property taxes;
- Utilities for use of the facility;
- Payroll, including health insurance premiums and other employee benefits, for employees whose employment is directly connected to services rendered at the facility and whose income does not exceed $100,000;
- Facility improvements agreed to by the borrower and, if applicable, the entity or municipality with authority over the facility’s budget and operations;
- And other purposes which improve the infrastructure and/or project development surrounding the facility.
In some cases, communities approved bonds for their facilities’ construction, which must be repaid regardless of whether events are taking place at the facility during the ongoing pandemic, the news release said.
“We’re very grateful that Congressman Simpson and his associates in the house recognize the importance of minor league baseball to the communities and also understand that they recognize the threat that COVID-19 has presented to the very future of minor league baseball,” Kevin Greene, Chukars’ team president and general manager, told EastIdahoNews.com.
Greene said when they generate dollars throughout the offseason to stay viable, all that is based on them having minor league baseball to come to in the summer.
“Without that, we will generate zero dollars in revenue this year,” Greene said. “It puts us in a really precarious position and we just wanted to recognize that our congressmen and congresswomen out there, they’re going to bat for us. We really appreciate that.”
Simpson said they want to ensure community organizations like the Chukars are still job creators in Idaho Falls once the world returns to normal.
“The larger cities in the country often times have the capital to float during these unprecedented times but smaller communities, like many in Idaho, simply do not,” Simpson explained. “As we continue to reopen our economy, I don’t want to see affordable family-friendly events be exclusive to the big metropolitan cities.”
Trahan and McKinley introduced this legislation with the bipartisan support of 20 original cosponsors. You can read a copy of the legislation as introduced here.
The status of the Chukars 2020 season is still up in the air.