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$1.5 million in COVID-19 relief is going to Scott County businesses
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$1.5 million in COVID-19 relief is going to Scott County businesses

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Government money aimed at helping businesses financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic began coming into Scott County on Friday as 75 small businesses were awarded grants totaling $1.5 million from the state of Iowa.

That money — $1,508,210 — is coming from Iowa's $24 million Small Business Relief Grant Program aimed at providing immediate, short-term cash-flow assistance for the next 30 days to maintain or reopen businesses.

A majority are bars and restaurants with two to 25 employees, and a majority received $25,000. But other businesses received grants, too, including Abbey Carpets, Fusion Salon & Spa, Greg's Gentry Shop and Pawsitively Purrfect Pet Grooming. 

In Muscatine County, 14 businesses received $241,853.

In Clinton County, 18 businesses received  $341,512.

"It's a weight lifted off our shoulders," Adam Reed, owner of Van's Pizza, Pub and Grill, Davenport, said of the grant. Van's is one of the Scott County businesses that has been awarded $25,000.

Although the business at 3333 N. Harrison St. remains open for carryout, sales do not account for one-tenth of normal traffic, Reed said. The grant will go toward rent, utilities and food purchases.

"It's really going to help us," he said. "It's going to keep us afloat."

And it will mean that the roughly 20 employees Reed had to lay off "will have a job to come back to," he said. 

Reed expects it will be June before he can reopen. At present, he and two other people are "working night and day, every day" to keep some business coming in.

Programs in Illinois; businesses clamor for info

Illinois has its own aid programs, as does the federal government.

And businesses are clamoring to get information.

Joel Youngs, regional director of the Small Business Development Center, based at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, Davenport, said Thursday he had been receiving "phone calls and emails for 14 hours a day for 10 days now from businesses of all kinds" wanting help and information about what is available and how to apply.

His counterpart in Illinois, Ann Friederichs, based at Western Illinois University, Moline, said she was hoarse from talking so much. "It's nonstop with calls and emails," she said.

Queries have come from businesses in which the owner is the only employee on up to businesses with 500 employees and multi-millions in annual sales, Youngs said.

"The whole gamut," he said.

• In Illinois, a $14 million Hospitality Emergency Grant Program gave grants averaging $14,000 to 450 bars and restaurants and grants averaging $30,000 to 250 hotels.

Of the total amount, one-third was allocated for Cook County, one-third for "collar" counties and one-third for downstate. Businesses were chosen via a lottery.

The state has not made available a list of the businesses receiving grants.

"I personally know of no one who's getting any funds yet from any program," Friederichs said.

Illinois also offers a Small Business Emergency Loan Fund, making loans of up to $50,000 for small businesses, defined as those with 50 employees or fewer and with less than $3 million annual revenue. The program is administered by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and is for businesses outside of Chicago. Those in Chicago have their own program.

Federal programs

On the federal level, there are two main programs: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, or EIDL, administered through the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, Youngs explained.

• The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program will provide for up to six months of operating expenses and is easy to apply for by going to the website disasterloan.sba.gov, Youngs said.

Approval, though, will take time, Youngs cautioned. This is a nationwide program, and "somebody's got to look at the applications and approve them, and no one had personnel in place to handle this amount of loan traffic."

"Everybody's scrambling," he said. "We don't know when money's going to start flowing from that (program). But I'm going to say sooner than later."

Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can't be paid because of the pandemic's impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses.

• The Paycheck Protection Program is more complicated; a business needs to go through a bank with whom it already has a relationship for a loan equal to up to 2.5 months of the business's  average monthly payroll. Although the money is a loan, it will be forgiven if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

This money is available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act.

These loans already are being approved, Youngs said. With 350 banks in Iowa, the state has a "fantastic infrastructure" to deal with applications, he said. 

At present, applications are open through June 30. Friday was the first day sole proprietors and contractors could apply.

According to a news release issued late Friday from the research center of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 70 percent of Iowa's small businesses applied for PPP loans and nearly one-half applied for the EIDL.

Nearly two in three successfully submitted a PPP application, but none have received an EIDL emergency grant, the news release said.

The Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce website (quadcitieschamber.com) offers guidance on applying for financial help as well as links to all the programs. (See accompanying story)

Both Youngs and Friederichs expect more programs and/or additional funding to be provided by the U.S. Congress.

"Things are changing every 15 minutes," Friederichs said.  "Things are extremely fluid."

"They're all listening to their constituents," Youngs said. "Because it's all in the best interest (of everybody) to have a strong economic community," he said.

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