FROM INSIDE BUSINESS By TREVOR METCALFE
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, business owners have been bombarding the Small Business Development Center in Norfolk with the same request.
They all need money.
“Basically, it is trying to get capital,” said Jim Carroll, the assistance organization’s executive director. “That is — the first, second, third and fourth priority is access to capital.”
The center — which is designed to provide one-on-one guidance to Hampton Roads small businesses— has experienced a huge leap in appeals for help since the virus and social distancing measures have upended revenue streams and business models.
Many of the callers need help applying for two federal loan programs being offered right now by the federal government. The Paycheck Protection Program is designed to keep employees on the payroll for companies smaller than 500 people. The Economic Injury Disaster Recovery program provides up to $10,000 for companies suffering during the pandemic.
Congress originally set aside $349 billion and $10 billion, respectively, for the programs, but that funding ran out on April 16. On April 24, President Donald Trump signed and approved an additional $310 billion for the paycheck loans and $60 billion for the disaster loans.
Carroll said that even though many of their clients received loans, he had numerous complaints about the disaster loan program, because “once you submit your loan package, there’s no way for you to find out what’s going on with it.”
The development center itself will be receiving some federal stimulus funding. Carroll said the organization will get $347,000 of $4 million allocated to development centers in Virginia. The organization will use the funding to hire staff and buy tools needed to help small businesses.
The organization also was recently awarded a $40,000 grant from Truist Bank — formed by the merger of BB&T and SunTrust Bank. With the grant, the development center has hired Mike Austin as a part-time small business counselor. Austin will give advice on commercial and Small Business Association lending. He has more than 30 years of experience in those fields.
As the economy eventually reopens, the development center will help businesses adjust to the “new normal,” Carroll said. He said guidelines will soon govern everything from customer limits to mask-wearing to whether retails stores should install sneeze guards around cash registers.
“It’s going to fundamentally stand business practices on their heads,” he said.
To that end, Carroll said he’s assisting other development centers in creating a guidebook to prepare businesses for reopening once distancing measures are lessened.
Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, firstname.lastname@example.org