City seeking ways to help businesses

Sean C. Morgan

City officials are seeking ways to help local businesses survive through the impacts of social distancing caused by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Late two weeks ago, officials announced that they were considering a program in which the city would use economic development funds to pay the interest on small business loans. Since then, as part of a federal stimulus package, it appears that businesses using the loans to cover operating expenses may have those loans completely forgiven.

While Congress worked on the plan in late March, city staff held off further development of its plan to see what happens, said Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen. From what he is hearing, businesses will possibly have up to 10 weeks of expenses forgiven, and the loans will be low- interest.

The city will not need to cover the interest in that case.

Officials don’t know how long it will be before businesses will be able to access the federal loans, Larsen said, so city staff is looking at something to give Sweet Home businesses quick access, “bridge loans,” to cover the interim until federal loans are available.

“Maybe we can provide an instant loan,” he said. Larsen is talking to local banks about administering the loans on behalf of the city, which would use its economic development funds to pay for the program.

“If we can have it in place with loan administration by the same folks, that would make it seamless and better for everybody,” he said.

At this point, Larsen said, he is waiting hear back from bank officials.

He urges business owners to contact him directly if there’s a program the city could use to help out.

Communication is key, Larsen said. “Nobody is well-served by quietly going out of business.”

For information or to talk with Larsen, call (541) 818-8036 or email him at [email protected].