Pandemic relief for small Utah businesses: What’s left?

Molly Kohrman, owner of Brownies! Brownies! Brownies! in Salt Lake City, was granted relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in fall of 2020. The Utah Small Business Administration wants to remind business owners that financial relief programs are still available, even as others programs come to an end. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As pandemic relief for small businesses slows and programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund come to an end, the Utah Small Business Administration wants to remind business owners that the programs that are still available.

The PPP, an SBA-backed loan program established by the federal CARES Act that helped businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis, expired at the end of May. The RRF, a program that gave economic aid to restaurants struggling to pay rent or pay employees because of the pandemic, ended July 2, and the application platform will officially be disabled on July 14.

Small businesses bore the brunt of the financial blows during COVID-19, many shuttering for good. Overall, small business owners in Utah have fared fairly well, bouncing back better than most other states in the country.

According to the U.S. Census’ Small Business Pulse Survey, at the end of April 2020, 38% of Utah businesses reported a large negative effect from the pandemic. By April 2021, the number decreased to 17.1%, compared to the 26.7% national average.

A large part of that recovery can be attributed to the pandemic relief. According to SBA Utah, Utah businesses received $5 billion through the PPP, and 507 Utah restaurants received over $122 million in relief through RRF.

“For restaurants or other businesses that were not able to receive this assistance, we recommend they consider the Economic Injury Disaster Loans as funds are still available,” said Marla Trollan, SBA Utah District Director.

Economic Injury loans offset economic losses because of reduced revenues caused by drought in some Utah counties, with a program that began May 1.

On June 25, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture declared this year’s drought as an agricultural disaster.

“This is Utah’s sixth declared disaster due to our drought this year,” Trollan said.

This means that small non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations in Rich, Cache, Morgan, Summit and Weber counties may apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, a low-interest federal disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

These businesses may qualify for up to $2 million in loans to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses impacted by the disaster. Farming or ranching are not eligible for SBA disaster assistance and should instead apply for assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” said Tanya N. Garfield, director of the U.S. Small Business Association.

The SBA has also extended the deadline for the Community Navigator Pilot Program to July 23. Utah small business owners have until the deadline to submit proposals for the new $100 million grant program, created through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to strengthen small businesses in underserved communities.

The grant awards range between $1 million and $5 million for a two-year period.

The program uses a hub-and-spoke model. A lead organization serves as the center of a network and business development experts or “navigators” who then assist the “spoke” organizations to connect to recovering small businesses, especially those owned by women, veterans, or members of socially or economically disadvantaged communities, and connect them to critical resources.

“Our women, veteran, and socially disadvantaged businesses often lack resources or don’t know how to easily access them. We will work closely with our partners to help the smallest of businesses and underserved entrepreneurs through this program,” Trollan said.

The deadline to apply for economic injury is Feb. 25, 2022.

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