Newhouse bill corrects error omitting small brewers, wineries from loan program

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) on Feb. 11 introduced bipartisan legislation that would make America’s craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, and other small beverage producers eligible for a larger maximum loan amount in the Second Draw Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

“With taprooms and tasting rooms closed around the state and decreased sales across the board, there is a real risk of watching Washington’s wine and beer industries disappear before our eyes,”  said Rep. Newhouse, who serves on the Congressional Small Brewers Caucus and is a co-chairman of the Congressional Wine Caucus. “This bill aims to provide them the relief they need to stay afloat and eventually return to the flourishing, high-quality breweries and wineries we are so proud of.”

With more than 1,000 wineries, over 300 winegrape growers, and 15 unique American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), which are specific vineyard zones based on geography and climate that are used on wine labels, the wine industry in Rep. Newhouse’s home state of Washington has a total economic impact of $9.6 billion, according to the congressman’s office. As of September 2020, the industry was projected to suffer a $855 million deficit due to decreased sales. 

Rep. Newhouse signed on as an original cosponsor of the Fairness for Craft Beverage Producers Act, H.R. 1035, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA). The legislation would correct an error in the Second Draw PPP Loan program, authorized as part of the bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal signed into law in December 2020, which increases the maximum loan amount from 2.5 times monthly payroll costs to 3.5 times for small businesses in the hospitality industry. Craft beverage producers with taprooms and tasting rooms were inadvertently omitted from the program. 

If enacted, H.R. 1035 would include craft beverage producers that are reliant on in-person sales but classified differently than bars or restaurants in the category of hardest-hit small businesses eligible for this increased loan amount, according to a summary provided by Rep. Newhouse’s office.

“Most of us have visited our local craft brewery or winery, and in so many ways, they bring our communities together,” he said. “In central Washington, the craft beverage industry is a huge economic driver, and like small businesses across the country, they have been devastated by the pandemic.”

H.R. 1035 has garnered support from the Washington Wine Institute, the Washington Brewers Guild, and the Brewers Association.