La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat on Friday proposed a series of city-sponsored assistance programs designed to help businesses during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Kabat said the city has heard the resounding message from some local businesses that they face closures and shutdowns because of actions taken to curtain spread of the virus.
“To date, approximately 100 of our downtown businesses have been forced to close their doors or dramatically change their business operations, which have forced them to significantly cut back on staff,” Kabat said in a prepared statement.
“In solidarity with the owners of these businesses, the city of La Crosse wants to help employers retain staff, pay their vendors, keep their lights on and help restaurants dealing with expensive, perishable inventory,” the mayor said. “We recognize there are resources available at the state and federal levels, but our businesses need immediate reassurance that the city is a partner in this and we are here to help them keep their doors open.
The city is proposing a small business disaster relief grant program to assist businesses to supplement state and federal programs. Grants would be based on payroll, providing up to $5,000 per 10 employees for a maximum of $25,000 per business. Details of the grant are in the works, with the program to be reviewed and acted on by the La Crosse Common Council at its April 9 meeting.
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In addition, the plan offers an immediate pause for all businesses participating in any of the city-loan payments, including capital, small business development and upper-floor renovation loans for the next three months.
The city also outlined federal and state programs that are available:
Small Business Administration: The U.S. Small Business’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in loans to small businesses 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 (fewer than 500 people) without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75% during a 30-year term. It is anticipated these loans will be available by the beginning of next week. Details can be found on the SBA website.
Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.: Small Business 2020 (SB20/20) is a $5 million grant program to assist businesses with no more than 20 employees to cover rent and to meet payroll expenses, including paid leave; providing grants of up to $20,000 to targeted businesses, especially retailers, restaurants and small-service providers. The grants will be deployed by partnering with the State’s 23 community development financial institutions. According to the WEDC, the intention is to expand this program to larger businesses as resources become available. The city of La Crosse will be working with WWBIC to partner with applications and distribution of funds. Details can be found on the WEDC website.
Other options:Kiva.org is a crowd-lending platform that provides 0% loans to small businesses through a platform of online lenders. WEDC initiated a 1-to-1 match for loans for downtown businesses that are female, minority or veteran-owned last year to expedite funding for these projects. Effective immediately, U.S. applicants for a Kiva loan will have access to the following:
- Expanded eligibility: More businesses will be eligible for a Kiva loan.
- Larger loans: the maximum loan on the Kiva platform will increase from $10,000 to $15,000.
- Grace period: Applicants may receive a grace period of up to six months for greater financial flexibility.
For questions and more information about the city’s small business relief effort, contact Andrea Schnick, economic development planner, at 608-789-8321 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Jason Gilman, planning and development director, at 608-789-7362 or email@example.com.
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