COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce has worked to take steps to help get assistance for small businesses feeling the impacts of COVID-19.
The chamber, along with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Missouri Department of Economic Development, is petitioning for the Small Business Administration to declare Missouri a designated disaster area because of COVID-19.
If the administration declares the state as a disaster area, small businesses employing fewer than 500 people and non-profits will be able to apply for loans.
"Once that is declared it starts relaxing some of those guidelines that you usually have on your traditional SBA loans so that businesses can get those a little easier," Columbia chamber President Matt McCormick said.
Public officials in many areas of the state, including Columbia, have limited crowd sizes and ordered or asked restaurants and bars to switch to only carry-out, drive-thru or curbside pickup sales. The actions have been taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, which killed a Boone County resident Wednesday.
The Small Business Administration collects economic injury information from small businesses. McCormick said the Columbia Chamber of Commerce encouraged local small businesses to fill these out.
If a disaster is declared, small businesses could apply for loans with generous payment terms.
"They have a lower interest rate and payment periods, longer payment periods," McCormick said.
He said the loans offer security to businesses to know they can continue to operate and keep their employees.
McCormick said the chamber hopes to know by the end of the week whether the area will be designated as a disaster area.
Nickie Davis, executive director of The District, said COVID-19 has already affected small businesses. The District represents downtown businesses.
"It is desperately going to hurt our small businesses. Even with this short amount of time that it's been going on right now in Missouri, it's already definitely dramatically affected many of our businesses," Davis said.
She said The District has been working with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to help small businesses.
Davis said if SBA grants become available it would be a huge help to local small businesses.
"They are in desperate need of any type of help they can get and as quickly as they can get it," she said. "If these loans don't happen for another month half of these businesses may not make it that long."
McCormick said the chamber is continuing to look at what options at a local level in case Missouri is not declared a disaster area. McCormick said help could come from bigger businesses helping smaller businesses in the area or through grant programs or job-sharing programs.
The chamber is also working to find ways to help local businesses benefit from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The act provides paid leave for people affected by COVID-19, those caring for someone affected by it and people caring for children during school closings. It also includes funding for nutrition assistance programs.
McCormick said the chamber is working to help local businesses implement the benefits through the program.