Selectboard commits cash to small business COVID recovery

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/27/2020 5:05:50 PM
Modified: 5/27/2020 5:05:46 PM

ATHOL — The Selectboard voted last week to commit monies to a fund which will be used to assist small businesses in the North Quabbin area to recover from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting months-long business closures. A COVID-19 Micro Loan Program will be established using funds from the North Quabbin Revolving Loan Fund.

In seeking the board’s support, Athol Planning and Economic Development Director Eric Smith said, “We are fortunate; since I came to Athol four years ago, we’ve recapitalized our North Quabbin Loan Fund. It was practically on empty when I first arrived in April of ‘16. With everybody re-paying their funds, we’re up to about $158,000.

“So, the proposal before the board would basically allow us to take $25,000 of those funds — that way, we’ll still have about $125,000 and change left in the account — and arrange loans of between $500 and $2,500. Hopefully, the loans would be competitive at 2.99 percent. That’s pretty competitive compared to a credit card or a personal loan. And it would allow repayment in 12 to 24 months, with the initial payment deferred for up to 60 days.”

Smith added that a credit score of at least 600 would be required to qualify for the loans.

“I think this is a great first step,” he said. “There’s also maybe some CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds to tap into. We’ll probably be back at your next meeting in June with an application for CDBG COVID-19 funds. But as the bureaucracy works in dealing with the state and with HUD (federal Department of Housing and Urban Development), we might not see those funds until fall.

“So, I think moving ahead and start marketing these funds today would be a wonderful start. It would show that we’re doing something locally to help out the community.”

Town Manager Shaun Suhoski said the loans would be available to small businesses with 10 or fewer employees in the nine towns of North Quabbin. Eligible businesses will have to have been in operation as of March 1 of this year “and provide self-certification for meeting re-opening protocols.” No collateral will be required, but a personal loan or personal guaranty will be required. He added that automatic electronic payments to repay the loans will be required. Applicants may have to pay a credit bureau fee of up to $50.

“I think this is a really great way to extend a hand to those really small businesses that are in our local community that just need a little help to get themselves back up and running,” said board Chair Rebecca Bialecki.

The approval of the board was unanimous.

Small businesses in Athol, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Erving, Wendell, Warwick, Royalston, and New Salem would be eligible for the loans.


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