CECIL COUNTY — Area business leaders got updates Friday regarding several programs available to them as a result of COVID-19, they also has the opportunity to ask a variety of questions, most of them geared towards issues once businesses begin opening up again.
The event was the second Cecil County Small Business Virtual Town Hall held since the beginning of the COVID-19 shutdowns and drew 75 participants who were there to get the latest updates on a number of federal programs as well as information on what opening back up will look like.
Maura Van Syckle with the Maryland Northern Region Small Business Development Center told participants about four programs available to them through various related government programs.
Two of the programs, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program are the more well known programs through the Small Business Administration and information regarding those programs was also presented at the first virtual town hall.
The EIDL is a program that provides up to $2 million in loans on a 30-year maximum term note. Van Syckle said that normally the SBA, who directly administers the loans, has around 60,000 to 70,000 loans of this type it may do in a year, but has received over 5 million applications so far due to COVID-19. She said that while the loans are now currently closed, there is a strong indication from SBA that they may be reopened.
The PPP is an SBA program that is administered through SBA lenders and is, as the name implies, geared towards payroll purposes. In order to calculate the amount a business may qualify for, Van Syckle said a business would need to calculate 2.5 percent of the business’ average payroll for the last 12 months.
She noted that one of the positives of the program is that it acts as a loan forgiveness program. Van Syckle said if 75 percent is used for payroll, that amount will be forgiven, and the other amount can be be forgiven if used for mortgage interest, rent and utilities.
Van Syckle also referenced two other possible programs including an SBA “bridge” loan, which would allow businesses who already have a relationship with an SBA lender, quick access to $25,000. She said the CARES act also has a debt relief program where those businesses who already have SBA loans may qualify to have the U.S. government actually pay six months of the principal and interest on their loan. She noted that this program could be great for small businesses to help them get through the crisis.
The state also created separate loan and grant funds, but according to Brigitte Peters with the Maryland Department of Commerce, the loan application period for those loans has closed and applications are currently being processed.
In response to a question regarding which programs are available to those in the agriculture industry, Cecil County Agribusiness Coordinator Maureen O’Shea said in addition to programs like the EIDL and the PPP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced two programs including the Farmer’s to Families Food Box program and a separate program that would provide payments to farmers who can show they have suffered an economic loss from COVID-19.
O’Shea said the food box program involves the USDA purchasing farmer’s oversupply of food and dairy items and then providing those items to farmers in need. The deadline for that program was May 5. She added that the direct payment program is still in effect, but that USDA had outlined additional information on the program.
O’Shea also referenced a program through the Maryland Agriculture & Resource Based-Industry Development Corporation that consists of a loan for businesses that are in the process of pivoting their businesses to a more direct delivery format, delivering goods direct to the consumer.
During the meeting, Cecil County Economic Development Development Director Chris Moyer and Peters also gave updates on Gov. Larry Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery plan. Peters said that there were 13 different business task forces that were working to develop recommendations that would ultimately be submitted to the governor to help create a phased approach to recovery.