No cruises till July at the earliest mean these tourist-targeted shops downtown will likely remain shuttered for months longer, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

No cruises till July at the earliest mean these tourist-targeted shops downtown will likely remain shuttered for months longer, March 20, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)

Stopping the bleeding: City offers interim loans for small businesses

Program is a stopgap until federal response is in place

The City and Borough of Juneau, working through the Juneau Economic Development Council, is offering small loans to small businesses as the coronavirus kneecaps economic activity worldwide.

“I’m very excited that it passed,” said Assembly member Carole Triem in a phone interview. “It’s moving fast, which is the whole point of why we’re doing it at the city government level.”

The measure approving the appropriation of $3 million from the city’s restricted reserve budget was approved unanimously after two days of debate by the Assembly. Triem said the amount was predicated on the anticipation of roughly 100 small businesses applying.

“There’s a huge demand here,” said Brian Holst, executive director of JEDC, in a phone interview. “We opened it yesterday. It went live at 5 o’clock. We already had a dozen applications completed last night.”

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The application is deliberately designed to be as streamlined as possible, Holst said, so that businesses can receive assistance as quickly as possible. Businesses must be Juneau-based, have 25 or fewer employees, be current in their obligations to the city, and have been impacted by the spread of the coronavirus. According to Holst, more than 50 applications had been completed by Friday afternoon.

“The point is to not put too high a burden on the business so this is quick and easy,” Triem said. “I hope it helps all of the people who need it.”

The city will disburse the first loans on Monday. The idea is that businesses asking for small amounts of money just to limp on will be able to get it quickly, while those with more need will require slightly more time for due diligence, Holst said.

“If we’re confident that it’s a business that meets the basic criteria, we’re going to move quickly on a small disbursement,” Holst said. “These are city taxpayer dollars. While everyone wants to help the business community, we want to manage the city’s funds as responsibly as we can.”

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The loans can be repaid interest-free if they’re repaid within the first year. After that, a 2% interest will be charged. The loans must be repaid within 30 months, which will give tourism-based companies two full summer seasons to work with, Holst said. This program is only intended as a stopgap measure until federal programs for supporting small businesses hurting in the crisis are available.

“The spirit of this program is to provide immediate assistance. But the best assistance I see is through federal programs that I see have come online,” Holst said. “The amount of resources we have are going to go quickly. What we really need is more substantial assistance.”

Want to apply?

Apply online at the JEDC’s website, https://www.jedc.org/emergency-loan-juneau-businesses.

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