Small Business Administration (SBA) officials on Wednesday said more financial assistance programs will soon begin for companies struggling to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“We’re hoping Phase 4 will start very soon,” Great Lakes SBA Regional Administrator Robert Scott said in Duluth. Phase 4 is the latest package being considered by Congress. Although Democrats and Republicans still have differences about the proposal, they are united in support of the SBA’s portion “Many of these things have not been seen before and we hope there are more coming,” Scott said.
 
They will follow previous assistance packages including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). In addition, SBA has provided online training to ensure small business owners have good knowledge of business essentials. 
 
Even though the country incurred $27 trillion in debt to address the misery, countless businesses were saved, Scott said, crediting the people and groups that worked together to make it happen.
 
"When a crisis hits, you find out who your friends are," said Shawn Wellnitz, chief executive for the Entrepreneur Fund, which works closely with the SBA. "When the effects of COVID hit, it was the SBA office that provided us working capital money to get out to local communities. That impacted thousands of businesses here."
 
The SBA began preparing for an onslaught of aid requests in March, said SBA District Director Brian McDonald, and worked with regional banks and resource partners including the Entrepreneur Fund and Northland Foundation.
 
So far, the hospitality and entertainment industries have suffered the worst financial hardships, he explained, a trend that’s expected to continue becuase of the need for social distancing and the ongoing trend for people to work from home. “For example, 200,000 people who are employed in downtown Minneapolis still aren’t working from their offices.”
 
Due to COViD-19, it’s likely that small firms will not have strong financial statements for the year 2020. To help them get loans in coming months, McDonald said banks may have to adjust their lending models. The SBA might  need to step in if a large number of companies can’t meet private loan requirements.
 
Earlier this month, the Duluth-based Entrepreneur Fund, which works closely with the SBA, released statistics addressing business highlights this year. They include: 
  • 405 new business loans
  • 247 Entrepreneur Fund clients accessed Individual Emergency Financing Loans (COVID-19 related)
  • 170 Entrepreneur Fund clients accessed COVID-19 related counseling services
  • 143 local loan programs created
  • 37 Paycheck Protection Program loans (CARES Act financing)
  • 21 new businesses opened in the region
  • 7 Ignite webinars provided information, resources and support