OKC creates program to help small businesses

Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2020 By: Cathy O'Connor Source: The Journal Record

As our community responded to COVID-19 and began practicing social distancing, it was clear this crisis would reduce, or even eliminate, revenue for many businesses. Fortunately for businesses located here, when there’s a crisis, Oklahoma City jumps into action.

On Tuesday morning, the Oklahoma City Council unanimously approved the new Small Business Continuity Program. The purpose of the program is to help bridge financial needs of small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the primary goal of retaining jobs.

The program provides cash incentives, no-interest forgivable loans, low-interest loans and technical assistance to small businesses in Oklahoma City with fewer than 50 employees. Businesses wishing to apply will complete an application and provide certain financial documentation.

A partnership of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City and the city of Oklahoma identified that it was small businesses that have the direst needs – they were adversely and immediately affected. The partnership researched models in other communities and identified several tools to support impacted businesses.

The Small Business Continuity Program offers cash incentives to help businesses with fewer than 15 full-time employees retain their workforce. The incentives will reimburse businesses up to $10,000 for the payroll of retained employees, with no repayment requirements.

Additionally, the program will provide 10-year, 0% interest forgivable loans up to a $50,000 or 10-year, 2% interest loans up to $100,000 to help Oklahoma City businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees. Loans can be used for payroll and some operational expenses such as rent and utilities, depending on the loan program selected.

For businesses looking for advice, the program is pulling together a group of trusted subject-matter experts in legal, financial, human resources and marketing fields. These professionals will provide live, one-on-one guidance and advice to local businesses dealing with business disruption.

For each of these continuity programs, businesses must have a physical location in Oklahoma City, have been in operation for at least a year and be able to demonstrate a significant drop in revenue (more than 50%) due to COVID-19.

With feedback from the City Council, we are finalizing requirements and the application period is set to begin on April 6. Help us spread the word.

Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

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