Earlier this past week, Congress passed H.R. 133- the Consolidated Appropriations Act, providing coronavirus relief and federal appropriations until September 30, 2021.
The bipartisan, bicameral package included a number of important priorities supported by Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03), benefiting individuals, families, workers, and businesses across Oklahoma.
Key priorities included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act include:
The coronavirus pandemic led to significant disruptions and temporarily reduced meat production, leading to challenges in the meat supply chain for both producers and consumers.
In July, Congressman Lucas introduced the RAMP-UP Act with Congressman Collin Peterson (MN-07), to establish a grant program to help small meat processors make improvements necessary to meet federal food safety standards and bolster the meat supply chain.
Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is an amended version of the RAMP-UP Act, establishing a $60 million grant program for small meat and poultry processors to upgrade operations in order to move to federal inspection or a state inspection program that allows for the sale of produces across state lines. Grants may be used for modernizing or expanding facilities, modernizing equipment, and implementing other processes to ensure food safety.
Paycheck Protection Program Streamlined Forgiveness:
In March, Congressman Lucas supported the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which created the Paycheck Protection Program.
In July, Lucas introduced the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, which would expedite the forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans of $150,000 or less.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act creates a simplified Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness application for loans under $150,000 whereby the borrower signs and submits a one-page certification that requires the borrower to list the loan amount, the number of employees retained, and the estimated total amount of the loan spent on payroll costs.
CFAP Payment For Cattle Producers:
The coronavirus pandemic negatively impacted Oklahoma’s agriculture producers, including Oklahoma’s cattlemen and women.
In May, USDA announced the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which created significant disparities for cattle producers, particularly those who sold their animals after April 15.
Lucas, following USDA’s announcement, penned a letter urging USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to allow cattle producers that sold cattle after April 15, 2020 to be made eligible for CFAP payments for sales.
Included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act is a provision that provides an inventory top-up payment to cattle producers to address a portion of the gap in support provided by both CFAP 1 and CFAP 2 to producers who sold cattle before April 15 and those who sold cattle after April 15.
Federal Pell Grants:
The Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program offered to undergraduates and is designed to assist students from low-income households. In June, Lucas cosponsored the REAL Act, which would expand educational opportunities for incarcerated students and strengthen successful reentry efforts.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act included a provision from the REAL Act, restoring access to Pell Grants for incarcerated students, providing a significant step to reform prison education programs.