New community and business COVID-19 resources

By Mary Jo Coulehan
Special to The SUN
There is a new regional website that has been created by Region 9 and the Community Foundation along with other agencies such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and local counties and towns. This website was originally designed to provide a “one-stop” location for community members for the 416 fires. This site has now been expanded to include all five Region 9 counties in southwest Colorado.
The website is very comprehensive and broken down into Public Health, County Resources, and Business Resources. All of the relief programs that we will be mentioning, and more, are on this website. This website is a wealth of information, from finding the right loan program and downloading the forms to questions and answers from ThinkHR and Mammoth HR groups helping businesses weed through all the different programs and employee-related questions about laying people off, Workshare programs, payroll tax programs, etc. Make this your go-to site, www.swcoda.org, for your business questions. People seeking information can also call the Central Call Center at 422-7084.
COVID-19 relief programs for businesses
There are relief programs to assist businesses in this dire time of closure and layoffs. Here are some of the more prominent programs. However, there are more programs available and they can be found on the new regional COVID-19 informational website, www.swcoda.org.
The big program that businesses have been waiting for is the Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program or EIDL. Small businesses can apply for a $10,000 grant in advance of an SBA Disaster Loan and receive payment within three days of the SBA receiving the documents. At this initial time of applying, businesses need to complete the forms on the SBA website. Loans can be used for rent, mortgage, payroll, paid sick leave, materials or other operational items. After this part of the application process has been completed, the SBA will require that you provide additional forms such as payroll information for 12 months, tax returns, business leases and business certification. Even if you do not qualify for the full loan, the understanding is that the $10,000 “grant” will not be required to be paid back. Go to https://www.sba.gov/disaster/apply-for-disaster-loan/index.html to start the process.
The Paycheck Protection Program is a grant/loan program for those businesses that want to apply for money to keep their employees on payroll. The program allows you to apply for a maximum of 250 percent of your average monthly payroll. These funds must be used for payroll, but can also be used for rent, mortgage, utilities or other debt obligations. Loan forgiveness applies if: you keep the same number of full-time equivalents per month as you did between Feb. 15 and ending on June 30 or starting Jan. 1 and ending Feb. 29. There is also forgiveness if the employer maintains total wages and salaries at 75 percent of the wages and salaries to the employee for the most recent full quarter during which the employee was employed before the covered period. Total forgiveness amounts will not be included in taxable income. If businesses do not meet the forgiveness guidelines, then this grant program turns into a loan program with applicable low-interest rates set by the SBA. So, it is important that businesses understand this is not free money. There are strict guidelines they must adhere to.
There is undisclosed individual and employee assistance programs coming down the pike for self-employed, independent contractors and those with limited work history. The initial guidelines we see is that this program may cover up to 39 weeks of unemployment insurance. Stay tuned for more information.
The Region 9 Disaster Assistance Loan Program provides loans for businesses up to $10,000. This program offers zero percent interest if the loan is paid back within six months. After six months, the interest only goes to 1 percent and thereafter to a prime rate. This application process is also easy, with employers needing to put forth a Job Development Statement indicating what the funds will be used for, how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted your business, number of employees at the time of the event, cutbacks and other general questions. Contact Brian Rose or Jenny Stollar, business loan specialists at the Region 9 offices, at www.scan.org.
The Town of Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County, at the time of writing this article, are also looking at ways to enhance the existing loan and assistance programs to our community. The Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado has the CERF program (Community Emergency Relief Fund). Business and individuals can apply to this fund for assistance through www.swcommunityfoundation.org. Donations to this relief fund are also graciously accepted. There is also the Pagosa Outreach Connection, which has been serving Archuleta County emergency needs for over 15 years. Requests are for emergency onetime needs.
Nonprofit organizations can take advantage of several programs that are out there through the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation, Nifty Fifty and Caring for Colorado just to name a few. Funding may also be available through the El Pomar Foundation. Requests should be directed to regional council members Mary Jo Coulehan or Lisa Scott.
This article scratched the surface of what is coming on board for our businesses and individuals. Here are some tips: Contact your bank now. See what types of programs might be available to you through their services. One local bank has an Emergency Loan Relief Fund set up with low interest rates. Contact your mortgage lender or property management company to inquire about rent reduction, deferment or forgiveness. If you need a loan, find the right one for you. The SBDC has consultants available to help you through the process. Instead of laying off, can you participate in the Workshare Program? Can you reduce hours of operation instead of offering full-time services? Most businesses have already gone through the downsizing process, but it is just a gentle reminder. Have you done a cash-flow statement for your business for at least the next two months? More information is being released every day.

This story was posted on April 2, 2020.