Chamber urges local businesses, nonprofits to seek federal relief

Apr 1, 2020

Late last week Congress passed the CARES Act in an effort to stabilize and stimulate the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Besides the $1,200 checks for most residents, the act provides grants to small business as well.
    Homer Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brad Anderson explains what the act does and how local businesses can tap into it.
    “This act has $350 billion that is set aside to help small businesses and nonprofits through this period of time to try to get themselves more stabilized, keep their workforce employed,” he said. “And it's something that'll really help us get through at least around the June 30 time period. So it's something for our community that can be really, really helpful.”
    He says that because so much of Homer’s economy is related to a tourism season that looks less and less likely, the CARES program is especially helpful.
    “Of course being the tourism area that we are, we're so heavily reliant on that business, knowing what might be you know what they can recover from the summer is a very, very important topic here,” he said. “And that's just something no one knows yet now what it's going to be like.”
    On top of that, Anderson says the loans are structured in such a way that repayment may not be as burdensome they may at first appear.
     “It's really important for our community that businesses get on here and and get involved in this program. Because, you know, again, this is how we can try to stimulate, get our economy up and going here, once again,” he said. “Most of the programs in this loan, the CARES program, that are related to their basic overhead and employment, a lot of it is more than likely going to be forgiven, be more like a grant. And so this is the stimulus program that'll be very helpful, and won't, in many cases require extra debt on the business going forward.”
    In general, he reports that the Chamber’s membership is very concerned about the long-term effects of the pandemic mandates.
    “The biggest one certainly is trying to keep their, you know, their employees paid. So even if they can't shut the doors down, you know, they're afraid they might lose their employees and when they can open up again, are they still going to be here. So trying to deal with their immediate workforce is a challenge and for some of our local restaurants that have been able to remain open doing takeout that's kind of helped keep them employed. But now it's still not business like they had before. So financing like this will help them in those cases,” he said. “Quite a number of our businesses have had to completely shut down. And so for small business owners who were you know, collecting the salary This will help them as well be able to stay afloat.”
    Anderson says any lender approved by the Small Business Administration, or SBA, will be able to help business owners with the paperwork.
    “It'll be administered through the SBA lending program. So right now, there'll be more lenders coming on board as soon as they get approved. But for right now, any SBA approved lender for Alaska is that would be the place to start,” he said. “Most of our local banks and financial institutions here have someone involved in that program.”