Steering committee meets to discuss loan distribution

  • The steering committee of Invest North Quabbin Met last week to discuss details of a loan program designed to assist businesses and families in recovering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. (l-r) Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, North Quabbin Community Coalition Executive Director Heather Bialecki-Canning, Athol Selectboard Chair Rebecca Bialecki, Athol Selectboard member Stephen Raymond, North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melissa Eaton, Tiny Town Marketing President Morgan Woroner and Athol Credit Union President Courtney Fifield. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Members of the Invest North Quabbin Steering Committee: (rear, l-r) Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, Athol Credit Union President Courtney Fifield, Athol Selectboard member Stephen Raymond, Tiny Town Marketing President Morgan Woroner, Athol Selectboard Chair Rebecca Bialecki; (front, l-r) North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melissa Eaton, North Quabbin Community Coalition Executive Director Heather Bialecki-Canning. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

Staff Writer
Published: 5/31/2020 11:25:35 AM
Modified: 5/31/2020 11:25:34 AM

ATHOL — The steering committee of Invest North Quabbin met last Thursday morning to discuss the distribution of loans being made available from the fund to businesses and families hit hard by the cononavirus pandemic. The committee also oversees loans of between $500 and $2,500 being made with cash set aside from the North Quabbin Revolving Loan Fund for businesses trying to bounce back from the three-month shutdown.

In addition to considering loans, the committee is urging and accepting donations from members of the community who are willing to help their neighbors.

“We really want to support people on the business side who have under 10 employees,” committee chair Rebecca Bialecki said of the INQ loans, “So, they’re really micro-businesses. And we want to directly impact folks who are really affected by COVID, not the folks who are making out better on unemployment, not the folks the folks who get a stimulus check so they can go buy a flat-screen TV at Walmart. These are folks who have really lost revenue because their businesses had to close, or lost their jobs and haven’t found a way to make up for that. Those are the folks who are really our target.”

Bialecki then explained that the Athol Selectboard, of which she is also chair, leveraged the North Quabbin Revolving Loan Fund “to be able to set aside $25,000 in order to have some microloans for from $500 to $2,500 a piece for small business to be able to access loans with an acceptable interest rate.” The loans could be repaid over a time frame that is “more palatable” to the borrower.

Heather Bialecki-Canning, Executive Director of the North Quabbin Community Coalition (NQCC) and a steering committee member, said she had received inquiries from at least one party interested in contributing to the loan program, but who also expressed reservations.

“He had some really specific questions about timelines,” she said. “His fear was, are we collecting money and sitting on it? I assured him that as soon as we get applications, we’re going to set up a process to review them pretty regularly. I think if we had some clearer expectation of what our timeline looks like, that might help alleviate any fears.”

Rebecca Bialecki responded, stating the end date for trying to raise money for the program is the end of July.

“I think between now and then, she said, “that’s when we’re really going to see the biggest need. If we have to, we can always extend it. Trying to raise money through the end of July doesn’t mean we have to shut off the payments at that time. Through August and the end of September, we’ll probably still be needing to get it out. That would certainly allow all the businesses to be back and functioning in some way.”

There is little doubt that businesses in the nine-town region will need help getting back on their feet. Melissa Eaton, steering committee member and executive director of the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce, said she knew of about a half-dozen businesses that closed their doors in March and will not be re-opening.

Those interested in either loan program can contact the Chamber or the NQCC. Funds are being administered by the Athol Credit Union.


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