McLean County government is shifting its emergency loan program to distributing larger zero-interest, forgivable loans to small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
The county board approved the change Tuesday to the McLean County Targeted Development Loan Program. The board also doubled the amount each small business can receive from $5,000 to $10,000.
Board Chairman John McIntyre said a surge in coronavirus cases in the late summer and early fall could cause further financial strain on many businesses, especially restaurants that won’t be able to serve as many customers outdoors as the weather gets colder.
“Just to be sure that these different small businesses, they have an opportunity to continue operating, we decided to make it even easier and grant money,” McIntyre said.
Since the county approved the $600,000 emergency loan initiative in April, only one business has applied: Moraine View Restaurant and Kayak Rental received a $5,000 loan. County officials said that could be transferred to a forgivable loan.
Supplies, technology and real estate improvements are considered forgivable loan expenses.
The Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council administers the loans. President and CEO Patrick Hoban has said businesses have expressed little interest in obtaining loans because they were seeing if they first get federal money through the Paycheck Protection Program, or state relief.
McIntyre said he plans to wait until the next county board meeting in November to nominate a replacement for the vacant seat in District 8, following Carlo Robustelli’s recent resignation.
That means the person the board approves could vote on the county’s annual 2021 budget on their first day in the role, and will only serve two weeks. The term expires Nov. 30, with a new board sworn in Dec. 7, following the Nov. 3 election.
“I don’t foresee one vote making any difference, but there will be a vote there,” McIntyre said.
Last week, the board's Executive Committee met with two candidates who applied for the interim seat -- Lea Cline, who is running for the seat in the November election, and longtime former board member Paul Segobiano, who was defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.
McIntyre has said he doesn’t want to nominate anyone who already is on the ballot.
In other business, the board:
- Approved staffing for a COVID-19 call center the county health department will staff 15 hours per day, seven days a week. The county hasn’t set a timeline for when it will open. The federal CARES Act will cover the costs.
- Adopted a new anti-discrimination policy for anyone who does business with the county. Board member Josh Barnett proposed the policy in June. The vote was 17-0, through Barnett was absent from the meeting. Administrator Camille Rodriguez said the county code already has language banning discrimination among county employees.
Editor's note: WGLT corrected the story to specify funding through the McLean County Targeted Loan Program would be in forgivable loans rather than grants.
There’s no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.