Home News COVID-19 Situation Advisors help small businesses stay afloat

Advisors help small businesses stay afloat

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Emergency funding, advice could keep operations going

Businesses might not have to lay off employees or stop operating if they get the right assistance, says Scott Bucher, director of the Small Business Development Center. (Submitted Photo)

Small Business Development Centers statewide already have received “dozens” of applications to access the disaster and emergency funding intended to help them survive, according to a local SBDC director.

Announced starting about eight days ago, state and national programs are designed to help businesses in the wake of coronavirus-related public health and emergency orders restricting public gatherings, hotel, restaurant and retail operations and closing public schools.

Scott Bucher, the head of the SBDC for Roswell, said a handful of local companies already have inquired about the emergency funding, and he and other business leaders are giving the message to small business owners that options are available to them so that they can weather the storm.

They also said that business experts will assist business owners and entrepreneurs in developing ways to keep generating revenues while restrictions are in place.

“We are all feeling the impact of COVID-19 in one way or another,” said David Vedera, vice president of client services for WESST. “Small businesses are the backbone of New Mexico, and they need support at this time more than ever.”

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According to 2018 statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the 154,257 small businesses in New Mexico represent 99% of all businesses in the state and employ 54% of the state’s workforce.

WESST (formerly Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team), like the Small Business Development Centers, is affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration. But WESST focuses on small businesses and one-person operations run by women, “low-wealth” owners and minorities.

Vedera said WESST employees are actively contacting current and former clients to find out what they can do to help, but he added that WESST offices also will serve new clients.

“We are focused on empathy first, which is: how are they, what are they experiencing and how we can help them,” he said. “We are actively working to talk with them and be there and lead and guide them as much as we can.”

He said that in addition to referring clients to emergency funding resources, WESST can assist with business and financial assessments; 30-, 60- or 90-day business plans for the crisis period; digital marketing; cash flow projections; and negotiation skills to rework contracts, rental agreements or loans.

He also recommended that people utilize the SBA Business and Employers Guide linked to its site, www.wesst.org.

Both Vedera and Bucher said they will work with business owners to help them “pivot” to new business strategies or develop new concepts so that they continue to generate revenues during the state-mandated closures or restrictions.

“This is going to be a challenging six weeks for everybody,” said Bucher. “But, with the challenges and adversities that come our way, are opportunities to learn to adapt and become more flexible and become better at delivering our value.”

He said that he and other SBDC staff can help businesses develop online ordering, look at new markets where they can ship products or take other steps to remain viable.

He acknowledged that the situation is a difficult one for many industries and employees. He said he has heard from a few companies about how Permian Basin workers in Lea and Eddy counties traveled to Texas to visit home and now cannot reenter New Mexico without being quarantined for two weeks, causing their employers difficulties as well.

But Bucher’s message to businesses is that they might not have to lay off employees because both state and SBA programs have been developed to keep people on payrolls.

Bucher said that he considers the SBA disaster financing tools a “God-send” and that he and other SBDC staff are directed to reach out to any business that receives an initial decline to determine what can be done to meet financial reporting or credit requirements.

“If they get denied or if they get a decline, that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable,” Bucher said. “It just means that there is something that needs to be addressed.”

The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan can provide up to $2 million for working capital with long-term repayments of up to 30 years. Bucher said that credit requirements are being relaxed at this time, and deferments of the first loan payment could be made up to 12 months. For-profits would have an interest rate of 3.75%. The rate is 2.75% for nonprofits. Applications can be made online at the SBA website, www.sba.gov, or by email or phone.

Bucher stressed that businesses will receive payroll tax credits. After repaying the loan, any amounts used to pay employees would be eligible for tax credits.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department also has made financing assistance available. No information was provided by press time about how many applications have been received up to this point.

The assistance includes an NMEDD guarantee for a bank loan for eligible businesses. Borrowers would work with their lenders, and the state would guarantee repayment of 80% of the loan amount to a maximum of $50,000 should the borrower be unable to pay.

The other assistance is a Local Economic Development Act emergency loan offered at 0% interest. The loans are restricted to certain types of businesses and for certain uses.

Southeastern New Mexico businesses interested in information on state financing assistance can contact mark.roper@state.nm.us, or at 575-562-0327.

New Mexico employees quarantined, laid off or having their pay significantly reduced due to the coronavirus situation are eligible for Disaster Unemployment Benefits, applied for through the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, www.dws.state.nm.us.

According to an Associated Press report, the state had 10,879 unemployment claims filed from March 15 until March 19, up from 800 first-time claims made the previous week.

State officials have asked the Trump Administration to consider making Disaster Unemployment Benefits available to the self-employed as well.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.