“Why can’t I understand this?,” I’ve said to myself more often than I’d like to admit during this pandemic. I am an economic development professional; certified! And yet I’ve struggled to grasp what is happening. How about you?
In an effort to cut through the confusion, and a sea of acronyms, allow me to sort through the COVID-19 relief programs—how they evolved and how they can still help you.
In March, Governor Wolf announced during a COVID-19 press conference that the Commonwealth would be offering zero interest loans to small businesses effected by the pandemic. What great news! Please contact your local Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO) for more information. Holy cow, that’s us! The program opened at 8 pm the night of March 25 and was closed by Tuesday, March 31. More than 150 calls within the week. Seventy-four million dollars was requested throughout the state with $61 million in funding. What a whirlwind. At the same time, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the opening of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for small businesses.
Here is what happened:
The state announced that the CEDOs in each county would administer the COVID-19 Working Capital Access (CWCA) loan program. In addition, the SBA announced the opening of their PPP and EIDL programs. You can speak with someone at the SBDC to see if you are eligible or need help or call your bank directly. Oops, I’m sorry, PPP is only open for businesses within the agriculture industry right now. I don’t know if you can defer paying the money back because it hasn’t been decided upon yet. We’re all waiting to see. The PPP is re-opening for everyone.
CARES money will be distributed to small businesses within the Commonwealth in the form of grants through the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Grants? Why did I just get a loan? I want a grant. Can I still get one if I got a loan? Well, what type of loan? Was it CWCA, PPP or EIDL? It was a PPP. No, I’m sorry you can’t. If you got a PPP no CARES for you. Wait while we discuss this. OK. You’re eligible to apply but you cannot use the same expenses you did for PPP. Can I use the grant to pay off my loan? What is a CDFI and how do I find them? Aren’t you the economic development agency for the county? Yes, we’re at the CEDO, not the CDFI.
Good news, the CARES money is coming to a county near you. Nine million dollars will come through the county for a variety of uses. Where is the application? Am I eligible? We just started working on the guidelines and the application. When can I apply? We promise to let you know. We are working on it now. How much can I get? We aren’t sure yet. We just got the information from the government. Is this the same as the COVID-19 Block Grant? Can I use this for rental assistance or a mortgage payment? No, that is a different COVID-19 Block Grant. Well, which one is this? This is for small businesses. Can I apply?
People have expressed such dismay with the rollout and communication of all of the programs—federal, state and local. Bottom line, it’s GREAT to have so many options to turn to for help. The navigation and understanding has been the hardest part. Whew.
The best advice we have is this: Engage your team. Ask your accountant and banker to help you be prepared for the next available resources when they arise. Have your tax returns copied and ready to go. A description of your business including financials will be needed. Know that the programs and guidelines are subject to change at any time. As frustrating as this might be to hear, it’s for the best. When the legislature learned that something wasn’t working in a program, they changed it on the spot! Look for updates!
Go to our Alliance website, where we also provide a link to the Adams County website and mark them as FAVORITES. We will keep the information updated with each program change.
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviors.” I think we should consider both consistently and apply them uniformly.
I believe that the confusion surrounding the programs, rollouts, changing priorities and policy happened because people quickly reacted and adapted the programs based upon new information. We all do the best we can with what we know at the time.
Let’s maintain an attitude of presumed benevolence toward others. Let’s believe that the actions and behaviors of other people are inspired by good rather than negative intentions. Choose to imagine a noble intent. And we’ll get through this together. #AdamsTogether