A McLean County Board committee is eager to send money from a seldom-used loan program to businesses struggling because of COVID-19’s economic fallout.
The County Board Executive Committee voted 8-0 Tuesday to endorse the $600,000 Targeted Loan Development Program that the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council is repurposing from a business creation fund that started in 2018.
The plan would offer $20,000 in economic recovery loans for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, while businesses with 10 workers or less could get up to $5,000.
The EDC said loan approval will be streamlined to get the money to businesses within 20 days as opposed to 60 days under the previous loan plan.
“I don’t need to tell anybody in this meeting how dire some of the straits some of these small businesses are in, not only the flower shops, but the barber shops and the mom-and-pop restaurants,” committee member George Gordon said.
Businesses would have to put up collateral and loans wouldn’t be forgiven.
Board member Chuck Erickson said while the program isn’t intended as a grant, he’s most concerned to see the money get pumped back into the economy at a critical time.
“Considering the state of emergency, get it out there and we’ll see where the chips fall when we are all done with it,” Erickson said. “Hopefully we get it back, but if we don’t get it back, so be it.”
The plan currently sets aside $300,000 for each loan type.
Erickson and board member Laurie Wollrab both said they want to see greater priority given to mom-and-pop establishments as opposed to manufacturers.
“I’m just uncomfortable with such large chunks, relatively large chunks, $20,000 for businesses when we could spread it around more with $5,000 chunks,” Wollrab said.
EDC President and CEO Patrick Hoban said the program will be flexible based on the financing businesses are able to secure through the federal stimulus program and other funding streams. He said this funding is intended as a backstop when other funding is denied or falls short of what a business needs.
Board member Catherine Metsker also said she wanted to ensure businesses in unincorporated parts of the county wouldn’t be left out as the plan stipulates applicants must be in commercially-zoned areas to be eligible.
“I just wanted to validate that we are not excluding those people who have businesses that people can’t go to right now,” Metsker said.
Hoban said the program would only exempt home-based businesses.
He said since the program was first launched for business creation it has been underutilized because the loans are subject to open records laws. He said the new loan program won’t be subject to sunshine laws as the EDC will manage the loans.
The full County Board will consider the plan at its meeting on April 21.
Property Tax Grace Period
The committee also endorsed a 30-day grace period before the county would charge interest penalties on late property tax payments to offer relief to homeowners and business who have faced financial setbacks to the pandemic.
County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil is also giving taxpayers an additional two weeks to have their taxes paid on time. She has set the property tax due dates of June 17 for the first installment and Sept. 17 for the second installment, about two weeks later than usual.
The measure will go to the full County Board on April 21.
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