PLATTE COUNTY – While the American economy has not yet fallen off the cliff, it is being pushed pretty near to the brink by the coronavirus.
But there are options to help businesses survive. Platte County Economic Development is working hard to help find solutions for businesses affected by the shutdowns, social distancing and lay-offs.
As of Monday, Platte County Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors has set up a Temporary Relief Loan Program for PCED members. These emergency loans are up to $5,000, with an interest rate of one half of one percent over prime (½ %) over prime. The note will be due one (1) year from the date of approval.
The purpose of the TLRP is to assist Platte County businesses directly impacted by COVID-19 and/or the recommended guidance by the President and Governor or State Department of Health.
Platte County businesses that are not members of PCED may apply for the loan program in conjunction with joining PCED.
For an application or more information on the TRLP or on membership into PCED, contact Hitt at (307) 322-4232 or (307) 331-1749.
“We’re a private nonprofit corporation much like a Chamber of Commerce, although our mission is different,” executive director Merlin Hitt said. “While we help our local businesses in every way we can, we differ from the Chamber in that we are trying to bring in new business and to help our local businesses expand wherever possible.”
The task at hand for this local corporation has seemed monumental at best.
“With this crisis that is going on, what I’m doing is forwarding to my membership any information regarding small business loans through the Small Business Administration, or any federal program,” Hitt said. “I know that Workforce Services is probably overwhelmed. I saw a figure that there were 3 million applicants in the United States yesterday. And that is just unheard of.”
Businesses worldwide who’ve never faced a pandemic situation face challenges, he said. Although some are maintaining, others are panicking and looking to go under.
“We’re all in unchartered waters,” Hitt said. “Our board of directors met last week and very quickly approved a small-business temporary loan.”
The loan has certain qualifying standards and stipulations, but overall, it can give a little bump to a small business that had planned for a rainy day, but not the flooding that has gone with it. The Economic Development office should be ready to process applications within a week.
“I thought at first, this was maybe a little overreaction,” he said concerning the pandemic. “But now as the numbers start coming in and we’re over 1,000 dead in the United States, and we’re barely 10 days into this, I believe these precautions are probably necessary no matter how hurtful they are for our businesses.”
As of March 25, another health directive was issued in Wyoming that closed hair salons, massage parlors and nail salons, to name just a few. Hitt explained the directive hit close to home for him personally.
“That really affected us because we rent to a hairdresser who has spent a lot of money remodeling,” Hitt said. “I’ve suspended her rent and we’re working out arrangements on the utility bill just to try to keep her going.”
That is just one example of Platte County community members helping out one another. Hitt also mentioned that if this virus runs longer than anyone expects, other landlords may have to consider suspending rents and utility companies may have to set up special emergency guidelines for their customers.
“As a community I see a lot of people stepping up and helping each other and sharing and taking care of one another,” Hitt said. “As this thing progresses, and people start running out of supplies, already there are instances of people helping the elderly to shop and taking them around the store to make sure they have what they need.”
Hitt sees the advantages of weathering this storm in a small community.
“We’re more neighborly than let’s say, Minneapolis, St. Paul where I once lived,” Hitt said. “Everybody knows one another and in a small town, you know more about your neighbors than you would if you lived in a bigger city. The main thing is not to panic.
“We are all in this together and we are going to get through it. This is the horse that’s been saddled for us, and we just have to ride it."