Decatur initiates emergency small business loan program

Decatur has begun taking applications for its small business loan program in response to the COVID-19 virus. This normally flourishing sidewalk on the city’s square has been silent for weeks with businesses and restaurants closed to any on-premises shopping and dining. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC
Decatur has begun taking applications for its small business loan program in response to the COVID-19 virus. This normally flourishing sidewalk on the city’s square has been silent for weeks with businesses and restaurants closed to any on-premises shopping and dining. Bill Banks file photo for the AJC

Decatur began taking applications for its small business loan program on May 5 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those businesses interested in applying are asked to visit the city’s business resources webpage at https://www.decaturga.com/ed/page/covid-19-resources-decatur-businesses with a deadline of 5 p.m. May 15.

A total of $500,000 is available through the program, with $400,000 coming from the city and another $100,000 pledged by the Downtown Development Authority. But in addition to this residents can contribute to the loan program by making a making a tax-deductible donation through Legacy Decatur at http://www.legacydecatur.org (those who donate over $100 get a yard sign).

As of late last week residents had already surpassed $11,000 in donations. That alone roughly equals what the city anticipates as an average individual loan. In a recent interview City Manager Andrea Arnold said she anticipates most individual loans will range from $10,000 to $15,000, although they can go as high as $25,000.

Eligible businesses are those within Decatur’s city limits employing between two and 30 full-time or full-time equivalent employees and were operational as of March 1, 2020.

“By the end of May we should know who’s getting loans,” Arnold said. “One thing we want to make clear, this is not a first come first serve situation. If the demand is greater than our supply we will have a lottery.”

The no-interest loans are for four years with repayment beginning 12 months after the state of emergency order is lifted. After that date repayment can last for up to three years.

Decatur consulted with a number of communities about various loan programs, but looked particularly hard at those programs in Birmingham, Al., and Athens, Ga., Arnold said.

“We recognize there are risks associated with these loans,” Arnold said. “But it’s a risk we are comfortable with. We are sure the need will be greater than what we can put forward. But we decided this was a financially responsible amount that I could recommend to city commissioners.”