Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said the county is doing all it can to get small businesses what information is available about both state and federal programs that could help them weather the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. It’s a team effort with The Partnership and other local groups, he said.
There are some delays and limitations for receiving some of the loans and other assistance recently authorized through the federal CARES Act, though, Boice said. And the county is monitoring the situation daily to see when funds will become available.
Small businesses seeking the loans must go through a bank that’s been qualified as a Small Business Association 7A lender. Locally, the Bank of America, Banner Bank, Oregon Pacific Bank, Rogue Credit Union, Umpqua Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and First Interstate Bank have been qualified.
However, none of those banks can process applications yet, because they haven’t received a list of rules for the loans from the Small Business Association.
Some of the banks have a pre-application process that gets businesses in the queue for the program, Boice said. He said he’s heard the rules could be out as early as Friday.
Boice is a small businessman himself. He’s the owner of Big O Tires and Midas in Roseburg, and has had to lay off staff.
That’s not because he’s been forced to shut his doors. The governor’s executive order that closed businesses like hair salons and forced restaurants to operate on a drive-thru and takeout basis only, doesn’t apply to his businesses.
At Big O and Midas, layoffs are due to a reduction in the number of customers seeking their services. Similarly, he said Logger’s Taphouse has had to lay off staff because while they’re still doing takeout and delivery for their pizza, they don’t have people coming into the restaurant.
“Others are in the same boat. There’s lots of them that are in the same boat,” Boice said.
And one problem with the loan program, he said, is it’s really designed to help with the payroll, to keep people working. If you aren’t able to do that, the loan isn’t as helpful.
Boice said many business people are feeling uncertain about the future.
“A lot of folks aren’t really interested in a loan because all that is going to do is increase their overhead if they ever do get back to a place of normal,” Boice said.
Loan forgiveness will be available for many of the businesses who take out loans through the program.
For those who have been laid off, or who can’t run their business, help is available for them too. But mostly that’s through the state unemployment program, Boice said.
“They’ve altered the unemployment program for the first time in history to allow for small business people who were self employed to be able to collect unemployment if their business isn’t able to run. And that’s going to be a big help,” he said.
The county is also working on figuring out a program to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 through its industrial development fund.”
My guess is that there’s going to be probably far more needs than there are resources, so we’re trying to prioritize those and strategically figure out if and how we’re going to be able to use that funding,” Boice said.
Boice said businesses may also want to reach out to their lenders to see about suspending mortgage or lease payments.
“My first advice, I guess, would be to personally speak to your creditors. The second thing that I would do is, if you need assistance contact your local bank. And then the third thing is if you can’t get what you need through that, then I would look for information for all the government resources,” Boice said.
More information is available at the county’s coronavirus webpage at http://www.co.douglas.or.us/media_room/coronavirus.asp, where updates on the CARES Act program will also be posted. Boice can be reached at 541-440-4201.