McLean County OKs COVID-19 Loans For Small Businesses As More Federal Money Awaits
McLean County government leaders took an additional step Tuesday to streamline an emergency loan program that’s been retooled to help small businesses struggling because of the pandemic.
The County Board approved the $600,000 McLean County Targeted Development Loan Program. It will offer loans up to $5,000 to businesses with 10 or fewer employees, while businesses with fewer than 50 workers could get $20,000.
County Board member Laurie Wollrab requested the county remove the requirement that businesses prove they sought federal or state help first, noting the federal Paycheck Protection Program quickly ran out of money.
She called it an unnecessary hurdle and one that some businesses might not be able to clear.
“I’m personally aware of very small businesses, like those of our program, that have not yet received a bank response concerning the PPP and certainly haven’t received a loan,” Wollrab said.
The board unanimously approved the change.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed an additional $480 billion in funds for small businesses and others. It awaits action in the House.
County Board member Jacob Beard stressed that federal money still may not reach every business that needs it most.
“I think we also want to be helpful that it (is) used up, but also spread around so not just a handful of businesses dip from every available resource, but rather those smaller, potentially less-connected businesses do have access,” Beard said.
Board members stressed their desire to get this money into business owners' hands as quick as possible because many of them are reeling from the economic shutdown.
“Some of these small businesses may not be around to even receive the funds if too much time is allowed to go by,” noted board member George Gordon.
The Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council will administer the loans. President and CEO Patrick Hoban told the board the EDC will soon begin marketing the loans and is developing the application. Hoban pledged to report back to county officials at future board and committee meetings about how the loans are being dispersed.
The program was established to provide $300,000 equally to both loan types, but Hoban said that will remain flexible to help address specifics areas of need as they arise.
The loans will require collateral and have a 1% interest rate.
Property Tax Late Fees
The County Board also approved a 30-day grace period for late property tax payments on the first installment before the county treasurer’s office would charge interest penalties to help homeowners who are facing financial setbacks due to COVID-19.
County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil also has extended by two weeks the due dates for both installments. The first installment will be due on June 17; the second payment will be due Sept. 17.
Several board members also expressed frustration over why a $1.5 million expense for engineering work was included in the 2020 budget for the proposed Eastside Highway, a project the county has essentially abandoned.
“I’m still confused by this,” said board member Catherine Metsker. “I also thought this was either stopped, or was not being pursued currently and I’m quite surprisd by that amount of money.”
County Engineer Jerry Stokes told the board the funds were supposed to have been paid last year as part of previous engineering work, but a purchase order wasn’t done, pushing the expense into 2020.
A new highway linking Interstates 55 and 74 on the east side of Bloomington-Normal was under consideration for several decades, but stalled in recent years as development in that part of the community slowed.
Stokes said once the reports are completed, pending review from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the project will move into a monitoring phase.
“We’ve got to get it to a point to where there’s an environmental assessment and all that stuff is completed and then it will basically sit on a shelf at that point,” Stokes said.
The board unanimously approved the expense.
The board also approved a resolution of support for front line workers and essential infrastructure personnel for facing “unprecedented challenges to stay healthy and serve their communities” during the pandemic.
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