Coronavirus

Resources Are Available to Help Small Businesses, Individuals Survive Challenging Times

Offering a Lifeline

It’s called Prime the Pump — an appropriate name, at a time when the pump is threatening to run dry for area restaurants.

A statewide shutdown of restaurants and bars has proprietors worried about the future, with many building short-term strategies around takeout and delivery, gift cards, and other features (see story here). But local government is doing its part, too.

“In conjunction and on top of federal and state loan assistance programs, the city will immediately move to offer $222,679 in grants, up to a maximum of $15,000 for qualified restaurants,” Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said this week in announcing the initiative. “As my administration continues to review any and all options to assist our residents and business community during these challenging times, I have asked my chief Development officer, Tim Sheehan, to see what we could do immediately to ‘prime the pump’ to start to spur a shot-in-the-arm relief and recovery initial assistance program for our restaurants and their employees.”

Added Sheehan, “while the small-business support being advanced by the federal and state government is beneficial, it is clear to me that more creative and flexible financial lifelines need to be established for the small businesses, especially restaurants which have disproportionately felt the economic impact resulting from the coronavirus mitigation measures designed to protect us all.”

For more information and details on how to apply, contact Sheehan at (413) 787-6024 or [email protected].

Read on for other financial resources available for small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

• The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will offer low-interest federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans for working capital to Massachusetts small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.

Small businesses, private nonprofit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives, and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of COVID-19 since Jan. 31 may qualify for loans up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred. Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the coronavirus. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private nonprofit organizations.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster-assistance information, and download applications at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or e-mail [email protected] for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call (800) 877-8339. The deadline to apply is Dec. 18.

• This week, the Baker-Polito administration also announced economic support for small businesses with a $10 million loan fund to provide financial relief to those that have been affected by COVID-19. The Small Business Recovery Loan Fund will provide emergency capital up to $75,000 to Massachusetts-based businesses impacted by COVID-19 with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits. Loans are immediately available to eligible businesses with no payments due for the first 6 months. Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp. has capitalized the fund and will administer it.

To apply, complete the application found at empoweringsmallbusiness.org. Completed applications can be e-mailed to [email protected] with the subject line “2020 Small Business Recovery Loan Fund.”

• Meanwhile, Common Capital offers a Fast Track Loan Program to address the needs of local businesses that need quick access to capital. Loan proceeds may be used for most legitimate business purposes, including purchasing inventory or equipment, and for working capital. The program offers a loan decision in two to three business days for loan requests up to $50,000, with funding typically within a week after approval. It is a credit-score-based program for businesses in operation at least one year. Those approved will be eligible for no-cost business assistance from Common Capital staff and consultants.

Applicants seeking funding from the program to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will need to answer the following questions: What steps have you taken or are you planning to take to address the financial health of your business in response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Please be specific. What is the typical cash-flow cycle for your business? How are your revenues affected by external factors, such as seasons, weather events, or the school calendar, among others? How much revenue did your business have month by month in 2019?

For more information about Common Capital and its loan programs, contact Kim Gaughan, loan fund manager, at (413) 233-1684 or [email protected].

• State and federal government entities are also looking at tax-relief efforts. At the state level, Massachusetts will postpone the collection of taxes to provide relief to the state’s restaurant and hospitality sectors by delaying the collection of sales tax, meals tax, and room-occupancy taxes. Taxes that are due in March, April and May will instead be collected on June 20 for businesses that paid less than $150,000 in sales and meal taxes or less than $150,000 in room-occupancy taxes in the year ending Feb. 29. The state will also waive all penalties and interest. Gov. Charlie Baker said the state Department of Revenue would finalize emergency regulations to establish the tax relief measures before week’s end.

In addition, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that individuals and corporations can delay their federal tax payments for 90 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Individuals can defer up to $1 million in payments for 90 days from the April 15 deadline. Corporations can defer up to $10 million in payments for 90 days. During that time, the IRS will not charge interest or penalties. Mnuchin’s announcement did not delay the April 15 filing deadline.

The IRS has established a special webpage (www.irs.gov/coronavirus) focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses, and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available.

• Nonprofits are being squeezed by the current crisis as well. In response, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) established the COVID-19 Response Fund for the Pioneer Valley with a lead gift of $1 million from MassMutual and a $500,000 contribution from CFWM. Big Y, Easthampton Savings Bank, Greenfield Cooperative Bank/Northampton Cooperative Bank, and PeoplesBank have also committed to contributing. Other area businesses and philanthropic organizations are being encouraged to contribute to the fund, as is the general public.

The fund will provide flexible resources to Pioneer Valley nonprofit organizations serving populations most impacted by the crisis, such as the elderly, those without stable housing, families needing food, and those with particular health vulnerabilities. Funds initially will be given to existing community-based organizations who currently serve vulnerable populations and who are best able to identify those requiring crisis services.

Those interested in making a gift to the fund should visit communityfoundation.org/coronavirus-donations or contact the Community Foundation at [email protected].

• Meanwhile, Berkshire United Way and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation have established the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund for Berkshire County to rapidly deploy resources to community-based organizations as they respond to the impact of the coronavirus in Berkshire County. They have already committed more than $600,000 for these efforts through a coalition of philanthropic organizations, businesses partners, and generous individuals.

Early partners and funders include Adams Community Bank, Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Donald C. McGraw Foundation/Blackrock Foundation Fund, Feigenbaum Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Joseph H. and Carol F. Reich Fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation, Mill Town, Northern Berkshire United Way, Unistress, Williams College, and Williamstown Community Chest. The partners encourage other institutions, companies, and funders to contribute to the fund.

Donations to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund can be made at berkshireunitedway.org/donate. Nonprofits can request funds through a simple, rolling application process that can be found at berkshireunitedway.org.

• Finally, to help individuals in need, the United Way of Pioneer Valley established the COVID-19 Recovery and Relief Fund to provide aid and resources to those affected by the current public-health emergency. As the pandemic unfolds and schools, events, and workplaces close, hourly, low-wage workers and many others will experience unprecedented financial hardship. In Massachusetts, two in five workers lack sufficient savings to withstand a sudden loss in wages.

Funds collected for this emergency relief fund will help families and individuals impacted by the pandemic to meet their basic, childcare, housing and financial needs. This fund will also help to continue United Way programs such as Thrive and especially Mass2-1-1, a free referral hotline providing access to services such as emergency assistance and real-time COVID-19 information. Individuals can dial 211, United Way’s 24/7 information and referral hotline, from any Massachusetts number to get information related to the virus.

Visit www.uwpv.org and follow the link to ‘COVID-19 Relief’ for more information.

Related Posts

In these times, many people will be working remotely. In addition to accessing BusinessWest online, readers may wish to add their home address. To do this, e-mail [email protected], visit  https://businesswest.com/contact-us/subscribe/, or call 413.781.8600.