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NC congressmen discuss funding options for small businesses

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — In a virtual Small Business Town Hall meeting Tuesday morning, U.S. Reps. Richard Hudson, R-8, and Patrick McHenry, R-10, provided information and guidance on the funding options available from the federal government to businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act — was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27 and includes more than $2 trillion in relief for individual citizens, businesses, education, public health, state and local governments and food security programs.

Hudson, whose district includes Rowan County, and McHenry, who’s a ranking member of the House Financial Service Committee and a co-author of the CARES Act, said the purpose of the bill and federal funding was to ensure a health and economic crisis didn’t “become a financial crisis.”

Part of the relief package is the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program, which provides $350 billion in loans for businesses with 500 employees or less. Additionally, the program provides loan forgiveness if employers can maintain their payroll for eight weeks. McHenry said he anticipates the $350 billion will run out within a few days, but he’s working to replenish the dollars.

Additionally, the act allows for business to apply for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration. On top of the normal billions of dollars in loans granted by the SBA each year, the federal government has asked the SBA to administer billions more within an eight-day period, McHenry said.

On April 9, the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board announced the Main Street Lending Program, which establishes an emergency loan funding program for mid-sized businesses up to 10,000 employees. The program allows business owners to borrow low-interest loans and delay the first payment for up to a year. The program will take two to four weeks to launch, McHenry said.

While fielding questions from the virtual town hall attendees, some said they’ve experienced a delay in receiving funds from the Paycheck Protection Program or have been told the funds are gone or that their banks have limited information on how the programs work. McHenry acknowledged the act isn’t perfect, saying he wanted the PPP to prioritize businesses that were most impacted first, but it ultimately didn’t get passed that way.

He suggested business owners visit other banks that they have a working relationship with if they continue to have trouble accessing the funds. He reassured attendees that the funds aren’t gone yet.

Additionally, he suggested, if business owners operate businesses that don’t fit in the PPP criteria or the Main Street Lending Program, owners could request months of forbearance on their mortgages. He also said the Main Street Lending Program would allow lending based on the business’ last year of income.

Hudson said it’s a challenge to get the money out quickly because normal channels of funding are not being utilized and the federal government is asking the SBA to “do a lot more than they already do.” Only some banks and credit unions already had authorization to distribute SBA loans. Therefore, a lot of financial institutions had questions on how to disburse the funding, Hudson said.

McHenry said the “turnaround time was extraordinary” nonetheless. Within one week, a new loan program was set up for Americans with $350 billion backing it. And 36 hours later, banks were able to administer the loans.

When asked if another round of funding has been considered, McHenry said he and other government officials want to ensure funds are effective and helpful before passing another bill.

Hudson said now “is not a time to panic” but rather come together and be smart. He emphasized his four key goals had been making sure health care workers had the necessary resources, increasing testing availability, receiving vaccines as soon as possible and minimizing the impact to the community. Hudson added that he has been working on providing more funding for the Veterans Administration and the military.

Hudson said he has also helped get some North Carolina residents back home amidst the pandemic, including 22 doctors from Concord who had been stuck in Peru. He told the town hall attendees who need further assistance or questions answered to reach out to him via his website at hudson.house.gov or by phone in his Concord office at 704-786-1612.

Additionally, more details about the financial options available to businesses during this time can be found, at visitsalisburync.com under the “COVID-19 information” section.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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