Roughly 250 people heard a March 24 webinar involving Second District Congressional Rep. Mark Pocan, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Eric Ness, Wisconsin District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Downtown Sun Prairie businesses were provided with the information through the Sun Prairie Business Improvement District’s email group, and City Economic Development Director Neil Stechschulte supplied weblinks for various small business resources to webinar participants.

While the webinar was scheduled to deal with SBA loans and programs available to small businesses, the bulk of the questions had to do with the designation of essential businesses under Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers latest “Safer at Home” order or upcoming state aid packages.

Acting as the moderator and the reader of questions, Pocan apologized several times for having to tell people who asked questions incorrectly about the state programs that their questions could not be answered during the webinar.

Godlewski also let the webinar listeners know the state is working to address many of the items they asked questions about.

Ness said many resources for those facing losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic could find resources available through SBA at https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19.

Designated states and territories are being offered low-interest SBA federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.

Any such Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance declaration issued by the SBA makes loans available statewide to small businesses and private, non-profit organizations to help alleviate economic injury caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). This will apply to current and future disaster assistance declarations related to Coronavirus.

SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with the state’s or territory’s Governor to submit the request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance. Once a declaration is made, the information on the application process for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance will be made available to affected small businesses within the state.

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) offers up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing. These loans may be used 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 or 2.75% for non-profits.

SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay. For questions, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. All U.S. small business owners in states and territories are currently eligible to apply for a low-interest loan due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Ness also said there are deferrals available on certain kinds of existing SBA loans, including those made as a result of recent flood or tornado damage in Wisconsin.

Godlewski said there is the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Small Business 20/20 Program that provides grant funds to approved community development financial institutions (CDFIs). Approved CDFIs will award grants of up to $20,000 to their existing loan clients to assist with cash-flow challenges resulting from COVID-19.

Businesses that are not currently CDFI clients are not eligible to access these funds, but WEDC will work to expand access to funding through other programs as more resources become available.

After Congress approves the anticipated COVID-19 package at the federal level, Godlewski predicted there will be a state package of aid available to businesses and individuals suffering the economic impacts from the COVID-19 outbreak.

The state treasurer also reminded the webinar attendees of other actions already taken by Evers: a Public Service Commission (PSC) directive to Wisconsin utilities prohibiting service discontinuations from failure to pay bills; and the extension of state income filing tax deadlines to July 15. No late or delinquent fees will be charged by the state, according to Godlewski.

Questions and answers

Moving through the questions rapid-fire during the 48-minute session, Pocan managed to get some duplicates as well as other questions about SBA programs that were answered by Ness.

Ness answered a question about business interruption insurance coverage being used to cover expenses.

“What we’re suggesting for businesses is to go through the application process for the loan,” Ness replied, referring to the EIDL. Typically business interruption insurance coverage, if it covers expenses associated with lost business due to a pandemic, will take a while to receive. An SBA loan can be paid back after the insurance funds are received, Ness pointed out.

Another webinar listener pointed out the SBA website is “maddeningly slow” and that the SBA 2020 program applies to companies impacted only by COVID-19.

Ness said any small business can apply for up to $2 million for working capital, debt payments, payroll or other bills that would have been paid if not for the disaster.

“I understand,” Ness said, “and we’re hearing from a lot of folks about the website.”

Pocan said the webinar will be available at a later date, perhaps even through his website.

For available SBA and state resources, check out https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19 or https://wedc.org/programs-and-resources/covid-19-response/ .

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