A McLean County government panel has endorsed a proposal to delay interest penalties on late property tax bills due to the economic setbacks COVID-19 has caused many homeowners.
The County Board's Finance Committee also Wednesday backed a loan program for small and medium-sized businesses hit hard by the pandemic, but it wants flexibility in determining who gets funded.
The committee voiced its unanimous support for County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil's proposal to lift interest penalties for 30 days after property tax bills are due. She also plans to delay the due dates until June 17 for the first installment and Sept. 17 for the second payment, about two weeks later than usual.
The interest payment delay would go to the County Board Executive Committee on April 14. The treasurer's office has its own authority to set when tax bills are due.
Board member Josh Barnett asked if the county can identify whether banks holding property tax payments in escrow accounts will pay on the same schedule or will seek to pay later, thereby delaying when the money would be distributed to local taxing bodies, including school districts.
McNeil was not present at the meeting.
The finance committee backed the plans for small and medium-sized business loans in a 5-0 vote. It is scheduled to go to the county’s Executive Committee on April 14 and the full County Board on April 21.
President and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council Patrick Hoban detailed the $600,000 loan program for committee members via video conference on Wednesday.
The program would make available $300,000 for bridge loans of up to $5,000 for businesses seeking short-term relief and an additional $300,000 in gap financing for businesses seeking funding to secure additional loans from their bank. Those recovery loans would be up to $20,000 each.
“Our goal is to fill the gaps that are left after the state and the federal programs are used, but also being flexible to meet their needs in the aftermath,” Hoban said.
The EDC is redirecting money that was set aside for startup businesses in a program it established in 2018 and is streamlining the loan-approval process in hopes of getting the money to the businesses faster.
The loans would not need approval from the Small Business Development Center as its prior loans have. Hoban said that also exempts the loans from public record laws. Hoban said that has turned off prospective loan seekers in the past.
Hoban suggested the program could prioritize manufacturers and other industries that the EDC figures would have a greater economic impact.
“The manufacturers tend to have a bigger impact on the economy than some of the retailers,” Hoban said. “Helping out a small manufacturer that might have two people might have a bigger ripple effect on our economy than a flower shop for instance.”
Committee member Chuck Erickson pushed back against that idea, saying all small businesses should have equal opportunity to seek funding.
“A manufacturer might have a greater impact to the community than maybe a flower shop or a restaurant, but you can’t really sell that to a restaurant or a flower shop,” Erickson replied.
Committee member Carlo Robustelli said he wanted the loan program to factor in the pandemic’s impact on the broader economy in determining who gets funded.
“What I’m interested in is flexibility here with the rationale when this would come forward to explain why you are recommending a set of applicants over others,” Robustelli said.
Committee member Laurie Wollrab said she’s concerned a greater emphasis on manufacturing would likely exclude most businesses owned by women and minorities.
“The last time I checked (there are) not a whole lot of women-owned manufacturing businesses,” Wollrab said. “I want to be very mindful that we spread this around as much as possible.”
Hoban added the program also needs to be flexible in determining the split between bridge loans and gap funding because it’s not clear where the backstops will be needed most. Funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program intended to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls has been delayed.
The loans would be issued at 1% interest and would not be forgiven.
The EDC has posted a list of state and federal resources available to businesses impacted by COVID-19 at BNPrepared.org.
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