Federal loan program designed to keep workers on the payroll during virus shutdown
Help is available.
Small businesses – the heart of the American economy and job market – are being hit the hardest by the virtual shutdown of the nation over efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, which is causing havoc worldwide.
But small businesses are not being abandoned by the government, and aid packages meant to bolster the economy – including the most-recent $2.2 trillion federal relief bill – include extraordinary measures to help rescue small businesses and ensure that they can survive this storm.
The Anderson County Chamber of Commerce has on its website an ever-expanding list of resources that our Anderson County small businesses can take advantage of to help retain employees, pay unrelenting overhead expenses such as rent and utilities, and keep themselves viable and ready to return to business as usual when this crisis ends. The website is: andersoncountychamber.org/covid19-small-business-resources/.
How important are our small businesses? The U.S. Small Business Administration classifieds any business with fewer than 500 employees as a small business, and there are more than 30 million of them in the United States.
Together, small businesses are responsible for providing more than half of all jobs in the nation. They led the nation out of the recent Great Recession with their hiring, and our economy is so dependent on them that they must be kept healthy for to have any hope of bouncing back quickly from the coronavirus crisis.
Last week, the SBA posted details about the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act measures for small business, which includes “$349 Billion in emergency small business capital” (see sba.gov/Coronavirus).
In an announcement, the SBA said that it and the U.S. Treasury Department “have initiated a robust mobilization effort of banks and other lending institutions to provide small businesses with the capital they need.”
“The CARES Act establishes a new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program,” the announcement said. “The program will provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses so they can sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed.”
“This unprecedented public-private partnership is going to assist small businesses with accessing capital quickly,” said SBA said Administrator Jovita Carranza. “Our goal is to position lenders as the single point-of-contact for small businesses – the application, loan processing, and disbursement of funds will all be administered at the community level.
“Speed is the operative word; applications for the emergency capital can begin as early as this week, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans. We remain committed to supporting our nation’s more than 30 million small businesses and their employees, so that they can continue to be the fuel for our nation’s economic engine.”
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said the legislation “provides small business job retention loans to provide eight weeks of payroll and certain overhead to keep workers employed.”
Under the program, which officially began April 3, “businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day,” Mnuchin said. “The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.”
The SBA said the program “will help small businesses with their payroll and other business operating expenses, and that “It will provide critical capital to businesses without collateral requirements, personal guarantees, or SBA fees – all with a 100% guarantee from SBA.”
Under the program, “All loan payments will be deferred for six months,” the SBA said. “Most importantly, the SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest.”
The loan program will be available retroactive to Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020, the agency said.
For Anderson and surrounding counties’ small businesses, the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Roane State Community College announced that it offers “free and confidential counseling.”
“As everyone is adapting to working in different ways, our center has moved to remote counseling,” the center said. “We are well equipped to work with our clients by phone, email, or video conferencing. To contact us, please call 865-483-2668 or email email@example.com.”
Businesses may also visit the website roanestate.edu/tsbdc for further information and to sign up for counseling services.
To become a client of the center’s services, go to tsbdc.org/request-advising/, select “Local Advising” and follow the steps, Roane State’s announcement said.
“We are in close contact with all state and federal agencies to connect you with any assistance programs that become available,” the college said.
Small businesses are also asked to follow all recommended strategies for employers to use to help slow the spread of the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control posts these strategies on the “CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers” web page (cdc.gov/coronavirus/).
Among the CDC’s recommendations:
-- “Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
--“Separate sick employees.
-- “Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.
-- “Perform routine environmental cleaning.
-- “Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps. Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel.
-- “Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisors and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
- “If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.”
The SBA also said that it works with a number of local partners to counsel, mentor, and train small businesses, and that it has 68 District Offices, as well as support provided by its Resource Partners, such as SCORE offices, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Centers.
“When faced with a business need, use the SBA’s Local Assistance Directory to locate the office nearest you,” the agency said.
The SBA’s nearest district office is in Nashville at 2 International Plaza Drive, Suite 500, telephone 615-736-5881. The web address is sba.gov/offices/district/tn/Nashville.