Here’s news for small businesses, private non-profit organizations, small agricultural co-ops, and aquaculture enterprises that have been financially harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak: Those in Wisconsin, and in some nearby counties in neighboring states, can now apply to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest loans.
Federal OK for the region was given late Friday. The SBA says the loan program is called Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Qualified applicants can receive up to $2 million. The loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payables, and other bills that can't be paid because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The interest rate on the loans is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profits. Repayment periods of up to 30 years are available.
During a media call Saturday morning, SBA Great Lakes Regional Administrator Rob Scott said it will take about three weeks to process the applications, and then a few more days for applicants to receive the money. But he said his agency will try to shorten the time frame.
"We know the urgency," Scott said.
He said there is no state financial limit, and no national cap on the program has been announced. Scott said, "If eligible, you're going to get [the money]."
Scott promised that the SBA will make people available to help business owners and organization leaders who have limited English skills, or who are not familiar with the forms that need to be completed.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers had requested access to the loan program for small businesses in the state. He called the SBA announcement "very good news" and that "small businesses and their employees have a little more certainty over their financial futures." But he expressed concern that processing of the applications may be delayed, due to the expected unprecedented demand for the loans nationwide.
Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore (D) and other members of Congress are urging the House and Senate to consider providing grants and direct cash, in addition to loans, as well as specific protections for minority-owned businesses.
The SBA declined to comment on proposals to reduce or eliminate loan interest rates, or offer grants instead of loans. The agency pointed to various bills in Congress.
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