Some St. Louis businesses can do with small loans, but it is a temporary help

A local small business loan program plans to distribute $ 2.3 million to companies in St. Louis and St. Louis Counties that are struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus outbreak.

To date, nearly 200 $ 5,000 interest-free loans have been raised for local businesses, and hundreds are still on the waiting list.

The US bank this week contributed $ 50,000 to the fund, which is operated by the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the St. Louis Development Corporation. The groups started the loan program late last month with the help of 10 banks in the region who contributed a total of $ 500,000. The St. Louis County Port Authority has also committed $ 1 million to the fund.

Erica Henderson oversees the small business resource program. She said the money isn’t a significant amount, but it helps meet businesses’ immediate needs.

“Five thousand dollars won’t go far, but we’re taking what we have and taking the opportunity to bridge the gap with bigger federal dollars that come into play,” she said.

Loan recipients have 18 months to repay the loan, with monthly payments of $ 50 being made over the first six months.

Henderson said the program’s hotline has been flooded with calls from business owners asking for advice on how to apply for available funds and where to find resources like food banks. The partnership also provides grants to business owners in needy communities.

Many callers have sought help from the state Small Business Administration for government assistance, Henderson said.

The first wave of money quickly dried up, but it urged business owners to prepare their documents and call their bank pending another round. Congress is expected to pour an additional $ 320 billion into the federal program.

Got through

Mo Costello has run MoKaBe’s coffee house near Tower Grove Park for nearly three decades. It should be their busiest time of year, but with roadside pickup the only option right now, business is falling by about $ 10,000 a month.

Costello recently received one of the Small Business Resource Program loans and it helps cushion the blow.

“It is not a lifesaver and it is not a business saver. It’ll bring me another month, ”she said.

Costello said she was grateful for the immediate help, but she would need more to keep the light on. She plans to pay off the utility and employee health insurance contributions for the month, but that’s about all the loan will cover.

Now she is wondering how to pay the mounting repair bills. In the past few weeks, a kitchen stove, ice maker and air conditioning have stopped working.

She fears that without long-term government support, companies like hers will continue to struggle even after they fully reopen.

“It’s dark, let’s face it,” she said. “Our seating capacity will be a third of that by the time it opens. People will be really skeptical about going anywhere for a while. ”

Joe Jackson said he applied for as many grants and loans as possible to help keep his Central West End piano repair company afloat. He plans to use his $ 5,000 loan soon to pay for things like car payments and health insurance.

Jackson was also given a federal SBA loan, but he has concerns about what the money can be used for and how much of it will end up being given away.

“At this point, our resources have shrunk to almost zero. In another week we will be paid off in full, ”he said.

Jackson, who said he had to lay off all but one of his 15 employees, works long hours to complete whatever projects he and his wife can tackle. You are only paid after the repaired and reconditioned pianos have been delivered, which is difficult to do at home with local orders.

He said he was nervous about what will happen in the next few months.

“I don’t know where we’ll find this other income in four, five, or six months,” said Jackson. “If we have another spike, we’ll just be in that boat again.”

If you are a business owner and have questions about available funds and other resources, you can call the Small Business Resource Hotline: 314-615-1777.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

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