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Bipartisan Group Makes Second Effort To Find Minor League Teams COVID Relief

Correction: The story initially incorrectly stated what MiLB teams were eligible for the program. They either must be part of the MLB Professional Development License system going forward or have been a National Association member as of Feb. 29, 2020. Also, the prohibition on eligibility for owners who have a 10 percent or larger stake in an MLB team applies to majority or controlling owners of the minor league team only.

After getting shut out for targeted coronavirus relief last year, minor league baseball teams are making a second effort to get governmental help after losing the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic.

A bipartisan bill with six sponsors is expected to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives shortly. The hope among minor league teams is that it will become a part of the much broader COVID-relief talks that are currently ongoing in Washington.

That was also the hope in 2020, but at that time minor league teams were left out of the Live Venue Grant program. That program was a $15 billion part of the COVID-relief legislation that passed late last year. The Live Venue Grant program is aimed at helping operators of small businesses that had to shut down because of the pandemic. But it ended up being written in a way that applied only to businesses that operated theaters, museums and concert spaces, meaning minor league baseball teams were not eligible.

The new bill is sponsored by three Democrats (Doris Matsui, Elissa Slotkin and Lori Trahan) as well as three Republicans (David McKinley, Don Bacon and Mike Simpson) and would provide relief for some minor league teams.

Minor league owners have pointed out that they were among the businesses most economically affected by the pandemic. The rise of the pandemic in the U.S. in March happened just before the start of the minor league season, which meant that teams had staffed and spent in preparation for a season that ended up never happening. No affiliated minor league teams played any games in 2020.

As the operators explain, minor league teams generate almost all their revenue during the season, which means that these teams have now been without significant income since September 2019. The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) did provide some short-term relief for many minor league operators, but minor league teams say they need much more help.

As currently constructed the new bill would apply to affiliated minor league teams that saw a 75% or larger reduction in gross revenue in 2020. Teams will have to planning to continue operating going forward to be eligible.

Minor league teams that are majority-owned by their MLB team or whose majority or controlling owner has a 10% or larger stake in an MLB team will not be eligible.

If this bill becomes law, eligible minor league teams would receive grants for up to 45% of gross earned revenue from 2019. The grants would be required to be spent on payroll costs, rent or mortgage payments, utilities and other business expenses. Any grant money received that is not spent on those purposes in the first year of the grant would have to be returned to the government.

The bill includes a $500 million appropriation to fund the grants.

Anthony Volpe (Photo By Julio Aguilar Getty Images)

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