Loans of up to $50,000 are available for businesses and individuals in northwest Georgia impacted by the pandemic.
The loans are for businesses and individuals who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus and want to start a new business, said Jennifer Whorton, loan officer at the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, an organization that provides technical assistance to governments. premises, regional planning and economic aid.
The funds are being offered using $500,000 from the Economic Development Administration’s Micro Loan Fund under the 2020 COVID-19 Recovery Plan. The loan program has no end date to this point, Whorton said. Nine loans have been issued so far, and Jackson said there’s been no trend in the type of businesses funded.
“Companies range from a few small wineries in Ellijay and Blue Ridge to consulting firms, [certified public accountants]bakeries, all kinds of different small businesses,” she said in a phone interview.
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Businesses in the 15 northwest Georgia counties served by the commission — including Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield — can apply.
The loans, with an interest rate of 1% to 5%, can be used for the reopening of businesses; retain, hire or rehire employees; pay old bills; or to purchase machinery or equipment that will help diversify a business, according to a commission fact sheet.
“People just need enough to catch up on debts and things like that. Maybe buy new equipment or fixtures and furniture to diversify their business from [COVID-19]”Whorton said.
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Companies or individuals interested in applying or needing more information should contact Whorton by email at [email protected] or call 706-272-2300.
Existing businesses must prove a solvent history before the pandemic, and new businesses will need financial projections. Those who want to start a new business can get help from the Small Business Development Center run by the University of Georgia, she said.
“They [the Small Business Development Center] help small businesses come up with financial plans and start a business plan and things like that,” Whorton said. “Just to prepare them to borrow.
Support for entrepreneurs from the Small Business Development Center is provided free of charge, she added.
Once all the money has been lent out, the fund will rotate to add new funds. It’s possible the Economic Development Administration will change the restrictions so the funds can also be used for other things, Whorton said, and local officials will know more by the end of July.
Amy Jackson, president and CEO of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, provided insight into the impact of the pandemic on the county during a phone interview.
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Businesses in the county haven’t taken the economic hit that those in many other communities nationwide, Jackson said, because the governor allowed them to reopen as quickly as possible. Staffing was a persistent problem – especially in restaurants and large manufacturers – and the chamber held job fairs to help alleviate the problem.
“While we had a few restaurants to close and a few stores, for the most part these are people who were already thinking of retiring, and it may have just caused them to retire a year or two earlier than they did. they didn’t originally plan,” she said.
She gave the example of Sear’s shoe store, which has been around for 35 years, and a few small businesses in Ringgold town center whose owners have opted for early retirement.
Some businesses have taken advantage of federal financial assistance from Economic Disaster Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program, and Jackson said others have benefited from Chattanoogans and other Tennesseans who patronize Georgia businesses in because of their less restrictive masking requirements.
Tax revenue actually increased from 2020 to 2021 in Catoosa County, Jackson said.
As for other businesses that have done well during the pandemic, she said parking lots at Home Depot and Lowe’s were always full, and businesses that engaged in outdoor activities like gardening and enjoying the nature did well too.