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$550M Bill Introduced to Help Struggling Minor League Teams

  • A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate could allow minor league teams to access a pool of unused pandemic relief funds.
  • Qualified teams could receive up to $15 million from a potential $550 million sum.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch/Design: Alex Brooks

Minor League Baseball was hit first by contractions and then by a canceled season, but a bill introduced in Congress could provide relief.

The bipartisan measure introduced on Thursday by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), would allow minor league teams to draw from $550 million in unused pandemic relief funds

The Small Business Administration would distribute up to $15 million per team, but only after the agency determined that the money wasn’t needed for its original purpose. To qualify, teams would have to have been active in February 2020 and lost at least 75% of their revenue.

  • Minor league teams make between $3 million and $25 million in a normal season. Teams lost around 90% of their revenue in the canceled 2020 season.
  • Legislators advancing the bill say that minor league teams provide 3,300 full-time and almost 32,000 part-time or seasonal jobs. 
  • Minor league teams cost over $2 million per season to operate, regardless of whether the teams are playing, according to a lawsuit filed by teams against insurers who were denying claims related to the pandemic. The lawsuit failed in November.

Last fall, Major League Baseball contracted the minor leagues across four levels from 160 guaranteed teams to 120.

This season, MLB raised minor league minimum pay by between $400 to $700 each week, depending on the level.

Players are only paid during the season, and MLB successfully lobbied Congress in 2018 to pass an exemption to minimum-wage laws that warded off a lawsuit attempting to force teams to pay minor leaguers during the offseason.