Amodei: Mnuchin's comments on casinos indicate he will discriminate; SBA plagued by "cultural arrogance"
Update 7:45 p.m.: Rep. Mark Amodei needled the treasury secretary Monday after Steven Mnuchin took issue at a press briefing with the use of the word casino to describe small gaming businesses, preferring to call the taverns or restaurants.
“While I have been told that the Administration will continue to work on this issue, the Treasury Secretary’s comments today are not indicative of one who prefers not to discriminate," Amodei said in a release. “Presently, it looks like Congress will have to fix this in the follow-on legislation. ”
Mnuchin said that new guidance was forthcoming.
Amodei also took the Small Business Administration to task over its use of guidelines excluding casinos from the congressionally-mandated Paycheck Protection Program.
“The cultural arrogance at the SBA, that has apparently allowed the agency to blithely decide who Congress was attempting to help, is stunning,” Amodei said.
“Your internal definition of rescue has successfully made about 100,000 small businesses and their supporting industries ineligible for rescue. Good thing you’re not running the Coast Guard,” he continued.
After the Small Business Administration used its internal policies to exclude casinos from getting loans to ride out the coronavirus economic storm, Rep. Mark Amodei expects the Trump administration to reverse the action and Congress to provide clearer guidelines for the agency once the crisis allows.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” Amodei, the state’s lone congressional Republican, said on The Dan Mason Show Monday. “I don't want to go on a jihad against SBA, but I can tell you that when we get a little breathing room here, there's going to be a little attention put over there in terms of their regulations, which aren't even the subject of the statute. This is internal policies over the years.”
“Let's give them some direct bright-line guidance, at least on the most egregious interpretations, of existing internal regulations,” he continued, adding that those interpretations should be put aside in the face of an economic emergency.
When the SBA launched the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) earlier this month to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees, it relied on long-established SBA policies to write the rules for the loan program, including language that excluded businesses that make over one-third of revenue from gambling.
The language affected 42 other states, Amodei said, adding that it is a bipartisan issue hurting main street businesses.
“It's mom and pop stuff; people with slot machines in the bar,” Amodei said. “Heck, I'm even pretty sure some of the grocery stores, you know, have those areas outside. If you're in the gaming business, and you're not deriving a heck of a lot more than a third of your revenue from having those things around, then you're not doing too good in the gaming business.”
He said his staff, other members of the state’s congressional delegation and other offices have been hounding members of President Donald Trump’s administration and they expect an announcement on the matter in the near future.
“So we're expecting news that they have undone that,” he said. “But I'll tell you what, it's taken 10 solid days of absolutely hounding everybody with a heartbeat on the phone and via text.”
PPP, which was part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus response package known as the CARES Act, provides $350 billion in loans to small businesses. Those loans would be forgiven if the funds are used to keep their current workforce in place or to pay mortgage interest, rent and utilities.
Amodei said that his office is still taking stock of what is working and what is not working with regard to the CARES Act and he added that talks on more federal aid are ongoing.
The state has $4 billion in funds “either already here or in the pipeline,” he said, which compares with the roughly $1 billion the state spends a month.
“Now, that's not mission accomplished,” Amodei said. “But so far, when you say ‘how much is enough?’ It's like, well, I don't know. But I know this is basically a pretty fast start.”