OKC approves $5.5M relief package for businesses

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 By: Janice Francis-Smith Source: The Journal Record

Small businesses in Oklahoma City may receive financial assistance by the last week of April from the $5.5 million OKC Small Business Continuity Fund program approved by the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday. An online application portal will be made available for businesses to apply beginning April 6.

“We’re hoping that it’s as simple as possible and that (businesses) can just check the boxes and upload documents and get through it pretty quickly,” Cathy O’Connor, president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, told members of the Oklahoma City Council who met by teleconference on Tuesday.

“We totally understand that this may not solve everybody’s problem – this is not enough money to do that,” O’Connor said when questioned by council members regarding how far the funds will go toward helping small businesses for which revenues have greatly decreased or completely dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program – devised as a joint effort by the city, the Alliance and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber – is pretty generous compared to what other communities across the country are doing, she noted.

“We were trying to find something that we felt was impactful enough to make a difference for these businesses,” said O’Connor. “I think we just have to be realistic about how many people we can help and try to help maybe the ones that need it the most.”

Council members unanimously approved the $5.5 million assistance package that will provide incentive payments, grants, loans and technical assistance to businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have lost at least half of their revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program designates $3 million for loans for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The loan program offers 10-year, no-interest loans of up to $50,000, which could be forgiven in three years if the business meets certain long-term employee retention goals and other criteria. Ten-year, low-interest loans of between $50,000 and $100,000 are also available.

Another $1.5 million would be offered as cash incentives, reimbursing businesses with fewer than 15 full-time equivalent employees for up to $10,000 in retained employee payroll.

Independent contractors and sole proprietors are also eligible to apply for assistance, said O’Connor, as are businesses that hire independent contractors. Decisions regarding eligibility will be made on a case-by-case basis. The council will receive regular reports on how the program is progressing, and businesses that are turned down for assistance will be informed as to why they did not meet the criteria.

Business owners may also request technical assistance with the application process for Small Business Administration

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