|North Adams, BRPC Loan Programs Designed to Aid Small Business|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
04:14PM / Friday, October 23, 2020
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Small businesses that have seen their revenue drop because of COVID-19 maybe eligible for forgivable loans of up to $10,000.
The city of North Adams and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission are administering separate microenterprise loans to assist low- and moderate-income business owners cover regular costs such as rent, staffing and utilities.
North Adams has $108,000 in total to disburse over the next few months. BRPC's microenterprise program is working with the towns of Adams and Lenox to cover North and South Berkshire (it does not include North Adams).
The funds are from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Community Development Block Grant.
Amy Shapiro, business development director for the Franklin County Community Development Corp., which is helping administer the city's program, said they are trying to get the word out because small-business owners may not think they are eligible.
"A lot of the issues is that people incurred expenses while they were shut down ... they're trying to figure out how to dig themselves out of that. And some of them haven't recovered and they're trying to come up with a plan," she said. "Some are making money, but what I'm hearing is many of them are making 25-30 percent of what they used to so it's challenging to cover their basic expenses."
The program looks at income eligibility based on U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines based on 2019 adjusted income, or the last eight weeks of income.
"We know that business owners are not receiving the income that they previously did last year due to COVID," she said. "So because their income is less, they might qualify for this eight-week threshold."
Microenterprises are businesses with five or fewer employees including the owner. To apply, household income must be less than 80 percent of the HUD median using 2019 taxes or the last eight weeks of income; the business must provide goods or services to more than one client or customer, have sales more than $20,000 a year, and be in good standing (its taxes paid or on a plan) with its municipality; and have been established prior to Jan. 1, 2019, and operating or actively planning to reopen under the Reopening Massachusetts regulations.
The first grant application deadline for North Adams is 5 p.m. on Nov. 2. Shapiro said the program will run in two-week cycles until the money is gone on a first-come, first-served eligibility basis.
The Franklin CDC is also administering a $600,000 grant program for Franklin County covering 23 towns and is currently in the reviewing phase.
"That's kind of why it works really well to do this for North Adams because we've got a great system," Shapiro said. "We have a team of reviewers who will evaluate eligibility, will review the applications and then make a decision on the award."
These will be recommended to the city of North Adams, which will make the final awards. This keeps the city at arm's length and avoids politics.
"This funding will help business owners meet critical needs in our community," said Mayor Thomas Bernard in a statement. "We know there is a significant need in the community, and while this program will not be able to fund all of the need, it will connect business owners to technical assistance and also provide us with a documented need for future funding possibilities."
In addition to business and personal income tax information and profit and loss statements, business owners will also have to explain what the money will be used for and prove that it was used for expenses. That's what makes the COVID Recovery Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program a forgivable loan rather than a grant.
Shapiro pointed out that it is taxpayer money after all and that applicants should have some "skin in the game" to ensure that its being used properly.
"Part of what our due diligence is for the Franklin CDC is that we have to prove that what the business need was reasonable, and they spent it on what was useful to them to sustain them," she said. "Because it's all about helping businesses stay healthy and in our communities, and be employing people."