MATSUI, BIPARTISAN, BICAMERAL GROUP OF LAWMAKERS PITCH BILL TO SAVE MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAMS

The Minor League Baseball Relief Act provides federal relief for MiLB teams which were benched for 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Minor League Baseball Relief Act, legislation to provide emergency assistance to Minor League Baseball (MiLB) clubs who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 MiLB season for the first time in 120 years. However, because of the timing of the start of the season, MiLB clubs had fully invested in the 2020 season, employing staff and incurring overhead in anticipation of a season and revenue that never materialized. The past year has left MiLB with catastrophic long-term losses that will devastate the small business teams and significantly harm the communities where they play and the restaurants, shops, and businesses that depend on them.

Unlike their counterparts in Major League Baseball and other major sports leagues, MiLB clubs cannot rely on TV ad revenues to supplement the loss of proceeds from ticket sales, concessions, and in-person advertising. Even with the return of fans this year, many clubs are facing immense financial hardship.

“In times both good and bad, our national pastime of baseball connects us to one another and to the nation we love. Yet, the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has put many of our local Minor League clubs in distress, necessitating targeted support to keep our favorite teams afloat,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “In Sacramento, we take our sports seriously, and the Sacramento River Cats and their fans embody the passion, energy, and civic pride of our great city. The collective spirit and support for our team lifts the entire region up, and this legislation will make sure teams like these across the nation will continue to bring our communities together for years to come.”

“Minor League Baseball is a point of pride to hundreds of small cities and towns across the country,” said Rep. McKinley. “Like many other small businesses in other industries, minor league clubs are struggling from the economic impact of the pandemic. Many of these teams are at risk of closing their doors if they don’t have additional assistance to make it through this crisis. This bipartisan legislation will ensure Minor League Baseball as we know it can survive and keep America’s pastime alive.”

“This bill will help keep Connecticut’s cherished minor league teams in the game,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The pandemic put America’s past time on the bench and deeply strained already cash-strapped minor league teams. Communities rely on minor league teams across the country for local jobs and small business vitality, and young baseball fans first discover their love of the game there. I’m proud to lead the effort to provide an assist to these beloved teams when they need us most.”

“Tennessee is home to numerous Minor League teams that have been adversely impacted due to COVID,” said Senator Blackburn. “For over 18 months, these teams have had to shut their doors to families who would have loved a night out at the ballpark. The Saving Minor League Baseball Act will ensure our local teams can keep their doors open and Volunteer State spirit alive.”

“For many working families, catching a weekend Minor League Baseball game at stadiums across the Commonwealth is an affordable and fun family outing,” said Senator Warner. “Baseball isn’t just America’s pastime, it also represents an economic lifeline for many communities. However, like many small businesses throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our Minor League Baseball teams in Virginia and across the country have struggled mightily to keep the lights on. Since there was no Minor League Baseball season in 2020 due to the pandemic, many of these teams have sustained heavy financial losses that have not been substantially mitigated by existing small business economic relief programs. I’m pleased to work with my colleagues on this bill that would allow these local treasures access to economic relief.”

“Baseball is not only America’s favorite pastime, bringing friends and families together; it’s also a critical economic engine for the Commonwealth,” said Senator Kaine. “Teams in communities across Virginia support our local economy and create jobs. The pandemic has taken a toll on this beloved sport, and I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help MiLB teams through this economic crisis.”

“I can't thank Rep. Matsui enough for taking the lead and advocating on behalf of the Sacramento River Cats and all of Minor League Baseball,” said Jeff Savage, President, Sacramento River Cats. “This assistance will be critical in allowing teams to be able to hire back employees, ramp up operations, and provide the family friendly entertainment our fans and sponsors are accustomed to seeing.”

The bill is also cosponsored by Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA), Peter Welch (D-VT), James McGovern (D-MA), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI).

Pre-pandemic, MiLB Clubs employed more than 3,300 full-time employees and nearly 32,000 part-time and seasonal employees. Additional COVID-19 relief would allow clubs to immediately return to full staffing levels and safeguard vital jobs in these communities

The Minor League Baseball Relief Act would allow Minor League Baseball to access up to $550 million in emergency grants to be administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and made available through funding authorized under previous COVID-19 relief legislation that would otherwise be returned to the Treasury Department. This funding would only be made available to Minor League Baseball if it was determined that there was no longer a need for its originally intended purposes and it would otherwise go unused. The bill would distribute grants up to $10 million for eligible clubs, and provide an opportunity for a second grant at 50 percent of the first if a club’s revenue does not recover and significantly exceed its 2019 total. The bill requires strict oversight from SBA through documentation, review of use, and an audit on grant funding, and applies to any minor league baseball team previously part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues but not to any club that is owned by Major League Baseball.

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