State and local economic development organizations (EDOs) are stepping up to help businesses looking for direction and assistance in the face of COVID-19’s spread.
Information sharing. EDO websites increasingly provide curated lists of resources at the local, state, and federal levels that offer guidance on how businesses can address various health, safety, and disruption challenges. The Indy Chamber’s Rapid Response Hub offers an example of a helpful FAQ that is organized by business need – Basics, Workplace & Health, Finance, Legal, Employee Support, Operations, and Government.
Collecting data on business needs. Some EDOs are asking affected businesses to complete online surveys to identify immediate needs and, in some cases, to specify revenue losses or other operational impacts that could be used to develop appropriate policy responses. For example, Philadelphia’s Department of Commerce is seeking information on business impacts, characteristics of firms that are affected, and interest in receiving different types of business services. Many places, such as the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, are striving to collect Estimated Disaster Economic Injury Worksheets, which are a necessary step for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration.
Disaster loan assistance. Declared disaster areas will be eligible for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Many areas do not yet have an official declaration, but organizations like the Alexandria, VA, SBDC are preparing businesses for what might come next by explaining the substantial documentation they will need to provide in order to be eligible for loans.
A few new state and local programs. It’s a fast-changing environment so it is not realistic to expect brand new programs to spring up immediately. Nevertheless, we have seen a few initiatives. For example, the New York City Department of Small Business Services is offering grants to very small businesses to help cover payroll costs and interest-free loans to qualified businesses that can demonstrate a 25% decrease in sales and cash. The city of Seattle is using CDBG funds to create a Small Business Stabilization Fund that provides working capital grants to qualified businesses. Michigan is expanding unemployment insurance benefits and, notably, “also seeking solutions for self-employed workers and independent contractors who traditionally do not have access to unemployment insurance.”
National resources are also available. The International Economic Development Council is offering practitioners a COVID-19: Preparing for What Comes Next webinar on March 23. RestoreYourEconomy.org provides resources for rebuilding local economies after disasters and is providing regular COVID-19 updates.