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Columbia Starting Loan Fund for COVID-Impacted Businesses

The City of Columbia is starting a loan fund for local small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Small Business Recovery Loan Program will give eligible businesses up to $15,000 in loans to cover expenses and adjustments caused by the pandemic. The program comes from the Housing Programs Division and will be open to locally owned Columbia businesses that have between six and 49 employees.

The loan is 0 percent interest and will be forgiven so long as the business can prove it has had at least one low-to-moderate income employee for the past year. The funds for the program are coming from the CARES Act, which provided extra money for recovery efforts through community development block grants.

Randy Cole is the housing programs manager for the City of Columbia. He said at the beginning of the pandemic, local businesses were struggling to stay open.

“We had 161 businesses report how long they could operate under the current state of conditions,” Cole said. “At that time, seven and a half percent were less than a month, 11 percent were one month and 27 percent were two months. And that was back in April.”

Cole said that even though Columbia’s begun to reopen, businesses continue to need help and relief.

“Certainly, we’ve reopened, but there’s still additional restrictions in place, still additional issues with consumer confidence in going out, so there’s a significant number of businesses that have contacted us that are still interested and need that assistance,” Cole said. “So, I think that need is still there.”

The initial fund will be able to support 26 businesses, but Cole said they have plans to try and help out more businesses, possibly expanding outside of the city of Columbia.

“So, we applied for funds through the county to help fund additional businesses here in Columbia and potentially help some businesses that are out in the county area, or non-city,” Cole said. “So, we’re still waiting to hear back from the county on that, but I would anticipate hearing something here within the next week or two.”

Applications for the loan will open on October 29 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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