Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
New loans from the federal government are now available to small businesses following the COVID-19 national emergency declaration.
Small businesses across the country headed to their local banks over the past week in hopes of applying to the Small Business Administration’s emergency funds set up as part of Congress’s $2.2 trillion federal stimulus program. The federal relief program has various loans and programs available to business owners — depending on the individual needs of the business.
Like most loans, the SBA loans will vary from one recipient to another. The official title of the SBA loans are Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
According to the SBA, the administration “offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.”
Macon County Economic Development Director Tommy Jenkins has been providing regular updates and information for local businesses via email during this time.
“At this point, the EDC is working with various strategic partners to provide local businesses with the information they need to access available resources, as well as assessing the needs of the business community,” said Jenkins.
According to releases from Jenkins, small businesses with 500 or fewer employees – including nonprofits, veterans organizations, tribal concerns, self-employed individuals, sole proprietorships, and independent contractors – are eligible. Businesses with more than 500 employees are eligible in certain industries.
Interest rates for SBA economic injury loans depend on the classification of the applying organization. For nonprofit organizations, including nonprofit aging services providers, the interest rate is generally 2.75 percent.
Per SBA, “The law limits economic injury disaster loans to $2,000,000 … The actual amount of each loan is limited to the economic injury determined by SBA, less business interruption insurance and other recoveries up to the administrative lending limit. SBA also considers potential contributions that are available from the business and/or its owners or affiliates. If a business is a major source of employment, SBA has the authority to waive the $2,000,000 statutory limit.”
Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships were able to apply and starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. Jenkins noted that businesses should apply as quickly as possible because there is a funding cap.
The application process comes with confusion from many local branches. In theory, experts claim businesses could apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. However, some banks, such as Bank of America have said that they will only loan to businesses with existing accounts.
Inquiries to Entegra Bank, which recently merged with First Citizens, regarding their process yielded no answers. Entegra Bank said while they are still operating under the Entegra Bank name, questions needed to be sent to First Citizens Bank. Questions to local branches were redirected to the headquarters in Raleigh, who then directed questions to the North Carolina Bankers Association.
Jenkins said for those who may not want to take out a loan, staying connected with their customers is more important than ever.
“Stay connected with your customer base by email and social media,” said Jenkins. “Promote online sales, gift card purchases for future use. If a restaurant, continue to offer take-out and delivery services. Encourage customers to ‘buy local.’ Work with resources such as SCC’s Small Business Center for new ideas and strategies. Now is a good time to think ‘outside the box’ when it comes to your business’s future.”
In addition to operational loans under the economic injury disaster loan program, the Small Business Administration has the ability to make “loan advances” of up to $10,000 to companies hurt by the coronavirus. The $10,000 will be issued within three days, and in some cases won’t have to be paid back at all.
The process starts with an application on SBA.gov for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Applying for emergency funds will entitle business owners to the $10,000 cash advance — if you get approved for the EIDL, the $10,000 is taken from the total loan amount, if you do not get the loan, businesses may be able to keep the $10,000.
Another program available under the loan for small businesses is the Paycheck Protection Program. The Paycheck Protection Program also has a grant component — which allows the loan to be forgivable if used according to the established guidelines.
“If you use that over the next two months to pay for certain expenses, like payroll, rent, certain debt service and things like that, up to 100 percent of the loan can be forgiven,” Said North Carolina Representative Kevin Corbin.
The Paycheck Protection loan is designed to help businesses and nonprofits keep or rehire their workers. Corbin says the forgiveness could be reduced if an employer lays off workers.
Corbin was appointed to the North Carolina COVID19 Task Force — which is comprised of Republicans and Democrats. Corbin said the group holds frequent virtual meetings, which are open to the public and can be accessed through the General Assembly’s website. In addition to ironing out the details of the federal CARES Act, Corbin said the state continues to streamline the unemployment process for the state.
“We went from having one of the lowest unemployment rates in our state’s history, to having 220,000 people file for unemployment in the last two weeks and it has overwhelmed the system,” said Corbin. “The state hired 50 new workers just to get the process moving so I am confident we will see better results this week.”
Corbin said as a member of the task force, he has been working on education concerns surrounding COVID19 which includes emergency funding to be used at the discretion of school districts for needs relating to the pandemic. Corbin said those funds will have little restriction and can be used for a multitude of reasons, depending on the unique needs of each district.
Local businesses needing more information about the SBA Loans, go to www.sba.gov; or locally, contact the Macon County EDC at 828.369.2306 or firstname.lastname@example.org.; Southwestern Community College’s Small Business Center; or the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Western Carolina University for guidance and information on SBA and other available programs. Businesses can also contact their local lender or accountant.
“It’s going to be a challenging time for Macon County,” said Jenkins. “That’s why it’s important for businesses to take advantage of all available resources.”