Community groups help businesses feel financial pressure from COVID-19
As local businesses begin to feel the financial pressure of the coronavirus outbreak, community leaders are rallying to lend a hand.
The Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp., the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Oshkosh are all working to reduce the burden on local businesses from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
GO-EDC’s Revolving Loan Fund Committee suspended all principal and interest payments to current loan recipients through the Greater Oshkosh Revolving Loan Fund and the Greater Oshkosh Capital Catalyst Fund for three months, according to a press release.
Additional suspensions could arise, as GO-EDC will assess the situation from month to month, the statement noted. GO-EDC loans were established to fill “loan gaps” for businesses and startups in the region and are managed by GO-EDC, the statement added.
Jason White, CEO of GO-EDC, said the suspension of loan repayments gives businesses a bit of a break to help them weather the economic downturn.
“We don’t think they need one more headache,” White said. “There are about a hundred things that every business is going to worry about right now. “
Some businesses have already closed and no longer have revenue, while others face reduced revenues from the state’s order banning catering service in bars and restaurants, he said. declared.
White added that in five years, none of the companies that have taken loans from GO-EDC have ever missed a payment, and that is how the organization gives back.
“Everyone’s world has come to a screeching halt, if you’re a business, in the last couple of days and everyone is sort of in survival mode waiting to see what happens next,” White said. . “I think for our part, we’ve tried to make sure our toolbox is full of tools.”
One of those tools is to prepare businesses to apply for economic disaster loans, when they become available, White noted.
GO-EDC helps companies send information to Governor Tony Evers showing they have suffered economic damage.
White said GO-EDC wants to make sure that when the time comes, companies can “pull the leverage” and apply.
That time may soon be approaching, as Evers submitted a request to the US Small Business Administration on Wednesday for a statement of assistance in the form of economic disaster loans from the SBA.
“Surveys of businesses over the past few days, as well as investigations into our Joint Incident Command, illustrate that the COVID-19 incident has had a significant impact on a variety of businesses within Wisconsin,” reads. one in the request of Evers.
If the governor’s request is approved, businesses can begin submitting applications for low-interest loans of up to $ 2 million to help weather the financial downturn caused by the pandemic.
Beyond GO-EDC’s efforts, CVB has created a “what’s open in Oshkosh” list on its website, which is updated as often as possible.
CVB executive director Amy Albright said the list is intended to help businesses negatively affected by the order banning food service in bars and restaurants, as well as other businesses affected by the pandemic.
“We’re just trying to do our part to encourage people to support the locals as much as possible right now,” she said.
The list is updated hour by hour as the CVB tries to be a resource for local businesses as they go through a period of financial uncertainty, Albright added.
Beyond CVB’s efforts, the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce has launched an Emergency Bar and Restaurant Micro-Loan Program to help chamber member businesses affected by the ban on food services, according to the loan request.
The Chamber has made $ 60,000 available to the program, and eligible businesses can receive up to $ 2,500, the request says.
The loans will be extended at an interest rate of 3.5% with an interest-free period; payments will begin Oct. 1 and consist of $ 100 per month for 26 months, the app noted.
Rob Kleman, the House’s senior vice president of economic development, said the program has grown as a “quick response” and mirrors a similar program implemented in 2010 during the rebuilding of Main Street.
“Many businesses are affected by the coronavirus,” Kleman said. “It’s for a targeted group that’s really feeling it right now.”
In addition to offering loans, the House is also trying to connect workers with resources to ease the burden of losing jobs due to the outbreak, according to Patti Andresen-Shew, director of education. and the development of the talents of the Chamber.
The House is trying to include information on how to collect unemployment and other resources for people without work on its website, she said.
“Whenever the state releases information, we make sure to post it on the House website,” said Andresen-Shew.
GO-EDC and the House are pressing lawmakers to help ease the burden on workers and businesses due to the virus, according to White and Kleman.
One of the things being pushed for is a waiver of the one-week waiting period to collect unemployment, White said.
“I think this is the first step, to make that assistance immediately available to people,” White said.
Another item under pressure is greater leniency for companies that owe their lenders money, he added.
“I hope that the Senate and Congress as a whole will adopt [those items], and the president will sign them, ”White said.
Kleman added that the House had sent communications to U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin asking for relief from local businesses.
Regarding the local government’s response, at the Oshkosh City Council meeting on March 18, City Manager Mark Rohloff said he was working with local economic development groups to examine ways in which the government municipal could help local businesses weather the storm.
He said the city may relax zoning regulations in the short term to help restaurants drop off and collect.
The city will also consider giving restaurants and bar owners a 90-day extension to the liquor license fee. Rohloff said he would see if the licensing deadlines depend on state regulations or if it’s something the city has the power to extend.
“If we have flexibility, I think we should think about it,” Rohloff said. “We should consider any kind of flexibility during this time. “
Kleman said it was remarkable to see so many groups coming together to support the Oshkosh small business community.
“There are so many organizations coming together to try to help businesses and individuals get through these difficult times,” he said. “We are all working together, we just have to get over that and work hard to come out on the other side of things.”