DeKalb approves $15M small business loan program

CEO Michael Thurmond talks with the Manager of Brown's The Barber Lounge John Phillips as Thurmond hands out masks and No Mask, No Service signs to businesses on Wesley Chapel Rd in Decatur, Saturday 25, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Application period begins later this month

DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday a $15 million loan program for local small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding comes from federal relief money the county received earlier this year. Loans given to selected businesses are eligible to be forgiven — and effectively become grants — if certain criteria are met.

“It’s much needed and I think it will pay huge dividends in terms of protecting and supporting economic growth in our county,” DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond said. “I’m very excited about this initiative.”

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The program approved by commissioners has been in the works for about two months. Some details remain to be worked out.

But the plan is for Citizens Trust Bank to administer $10 million of the program, with another yet-to-be-identified institution handling the rest. Loans of up to $40,000 will be available for approved businesses to use for payroll; state unemployment and local taxes; employee benefits; mortgage interest or rent payments; commercial property utilities; and interest on other business-related debts.

Businesses with annual revenues of less than $1 million and 20 or fewer employees will be eligible. Priority will be given to businesses that did not receive support from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Loans are eligible for forgiveness after three months if participating businesses follow the spending parameters and maintain employees — or prove a “good faith” effort toward doing so.

The application period will run from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7. More information will be available at dekalbcountyga.gov/COVID19loan.

“We gathered insights and information to better understand the most pressing needs of this vital sector of our small business owners,” said Commissioner Steve Bradshaw, who chaired the business committee of the county’s COVID-19 task force. “We view a small business loan program for DeKalb as an integral resource in supporting not only small businesses, but the DeKalb community at large.”

DeKalb County received a total of $125 million from the federal CARES Act relief package. It has thus far dedicated money toward providing hazard pay to frontline county workers; creating new COVID-19 testing sites; addressing food insecurity; and providing money to nonprofits that help with rent and utility assistance, among other initiatives.

The county has also set aside about $32.6 million for use by its cities.