small business administration

The coronavirus continues to spread, and along with it mandates for social distancing, limits at the grocery stores for certain items, restaurants moving to take out only, increased attention to hygiene practices and closures of school systems and local government offices to the public.

Small businesses are also feeling the effects of an unsure economy.

As part of the national response to the crisis, the Small Business Administration has been provided with additional funding, specifically targeted to help businesses weather the unforeseen economic impacts caused by the national health crisis.

According to a release issued by the Small Business Administration on March 12, the SBA will provide disaster assistance loans for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in the release. “Our agency will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the situation. Additionally, the SBA continues to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans through our network of 68 district offices and numerous resource partners located around the country.”

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for a small business. These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75%.

SBA 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.

What’s needed to apply?

While the good news is that there is money available, the challenging news is making that happen on a local level.

“All Virginia counties are now eligible,” said Ray Knott, senior vice president at Atlantic Union Bank.

Knott is often tapped for his financial expertise. He is a council member with the Central Virginia Partnership; on the board of the PATH Foundation; a member of Region 9 GO Virginia. He also is a member of the The Risk Management Association. More recently Knott has taken on the role of main finance presenter with the Be the Change Foundation series of business classes.

Knott, like many of his colleagues working in financial institutions, are working hard to keep up with a rapidly changing and dynamic situation.

“Essentially everything is moving so quickly,” said Knott, “because of the speed and velocity … they’ve [the federal administration] opened this program … it’s a challenge.”

Knott explained that typically, the loan program for disaster relief is based regionally on areas affected by a natural disaster due to a hurricane or flood. In those cases, specific localities are identified.

“This is different … this is not isolated to any specific locality … this is affecting the entire nation,” said Knott. “They are having to build programs as they go.”

“Think of it this way … it’s like building a car while they are riding down the road,” chuckled Knott. “They’re having to make changes, adjustments … we haven’t seen something to this level.”

Knott encouraged patience, acknowledging that while SBA funds are available, the details are subject to adjustment and adaptation, but certainly businesses can receive and qualify for this Economic Injury Disaster Loan Assistance.

“It’s not a send me a check type of thing,” said Knott. “You will have to go through their application, show your financials and show impact to your business.”

“For restaurants … that’s pretty easy … they’ve had limitations on seating,” said Knott as an example.

Knott also noted that under a disaster relief program, business owners can go directly to the SBA. It’s not necessary to show that the business has been turned down by another financial institution first. 

Knott said that bank officials are in contact with the SBA field office directly. His advice to anyone  interested in applying for one of these loans is to fill out the form online and then speak directly with one of SBA’s consumer representatives.

“They will walk you through it … explain the process,” said Knott adding, “the idea behind these loans is to give it to those who need it the most.”

“It’s important for people to stay current on what’s happening,” encouraged Knott, “stay in touch with your banker … work on contingent plans … particularly in these times of volatility.”

“I’m sure that SBA is going to be inundated as well, so there may be waits … be patient,” said Knott.

“We’re always talking about supporting our local businesses,” said Knott, “but, it’s more important than ever that we do that now… get curbside service or take out from local restaurants.”

For additional information, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

To go directly to the assistance form, visit www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.

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