You hear a lot about supporting local business in Columbia and we're proving right now that it’s more than just a slogan. We’ve heard from so many people over the past months—people reaching out to help and to offer support—that we are confident Columbians are up to the task.
Our first priority is the health and safety of our community. At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, our businesses shifted to no-contact options such as online sales, curbside pickup, drop off options, and phone consultations in order to keep their customers and their employees safe. And now that our businesses are reopened, we are committed to these extraordinary efforts to ensure that everyone remains safe and healthy.
We're already starting the recovery and rebuilding efforts here on The Loop so as resources become available on a local, state, and federal level, we will update this list. We realize that navigating these options may be difficult so we recommend reaching out to a business counselor.
The MO Women’s Business Center and the MU Small Business Development Center (MU SBDC) are two free options we recommend. The MU SBDC is adding additional staff to assist small businesses in the Columbia region and yes, the Women's Business Center will offer counseling to men as well. If you have a local lender, they are also a great resource. For additional information that may be helpful to businesses, including HR guidelines and tax relief, we recommend visiting the Columbia Chamber of Commerce website.
Health officials from Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) have created evidence-based guidelines and regulations based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Road to Reopening: Guidance for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic includes containment and mitigation strategies for business and industry in an effort to reduce the spread and prioritize the health and safety of our residents.
Please review the relevant sections for regulations concerning your business and how to keep employees and customers safe. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact their office at (573) 874-7355 or email [email protected].
In an effort to assist small businesses, the City of Columbia’s Housing Programs Division will be accepting Microenterprise Recovery Loan Program applications beginning Wednesday, April 15. The application period will remain open until the loan funds are exhausted. Forgivable loans of up to $5000 will be provided for approved local microenterprise businesses with five or fewer employees. Qualified businesses must apply for assistance through the City of Columbia's Housing Programs Division. Funds are limited.
Update: The City is also reallocating $400,000 for additional Microenterprise Loans and a Small Business Loan Fund so keep an eye out for these new options. Details will be available at www.como.gov.
Loans are available up to $2 million to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profit organizations with a term of up to 30 years. The amount of the loan is determined by your pre-COVID financial statements.
As part of this loan, a $10,000 immediate advance is included. The loan advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application, and the $10,000 loan advance will not have to be repaid.
More information at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela and a how-to guide for applying is available for download. To determine which option--the EIDL or the PPP (below)--is best for your business, the MOWBC and the MU Small Business Development Center are both offering assistance and advice to businesses interested in these loans.
Click here to learn more. To apply, contact your local bank. Both the Women's Business Center and the Small Business Development Center can point you to an approved lender as well.
The MO Department of Labor has created a COVID-19 category for unemployment benefits. Congress authorized a temporary extension of benefits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks in states with a 10% spike in unemployment. They have removed the job search requirement and their website should be updated soon. There is still a waiting period of one week until benefits can be accessed and the state is waiting on guidance from the US Department of Labor on that. Details and application at https://labor.mo.gov/coronavirus.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act which will take effect on approximately April 2 and end on December 31, 2020 includes a refundable payroll tax credit to reimburse businesses for paid sick leave and family and medical leave wages paid to employees that are affected by COVID-19, allowing workers to care for themselves and loved ones impacted. Small and midsize employers can claim two new refundable payroll tax credits to reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing employee leave related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Find details at http://irs.gov/coronavirus
We recommended reaching our to your bank to discuss options, such as micro-loans or lines of credit. (While you're at it, contacting your landlord for deferred or reduced rent is also a good idea.) Please note that getting a local disaster-related loan may prohibit you from receiving an SBA Disaster Loan so please speak to your bank about details. We are working on other local initiatives so we will keep you posted.
The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation donated $5 million to support female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19 and teamed up with GlobalGiving to establish the Red Backpack Fund. GlobalGiving will be overseeing the fund, making 1,000 grants of $5,000 each to female entrepreneurs in the U.S. to help alleviate the immediate needs and support the long-term recovery of those impacted by this crisis. Details and application at https://www.globalgiving.org/redbackpackfund/. They are upgrading the application process so please submit an email for updates.
During this challenging time, people are looking for ways to support the businesses that they love in their communities. One way they’re doing so is by purchasing gift cards, so Facebook is helping people easily discover digital gift cards for their local businesses. When you set up a digital gift card with one of their partners, people in your area will be able to discover it right on Facebook. When they click on your gift card, they’ll be able to purchase it online immediately.
If you don't already have a gift card program, Facebook can help you quickly establish and promote a digital gift card program so you can encourage customers to buy now and shop later. Details at https://www.facebook.com/business/boost/gift-cards.
Etsy is increasing offsite advertising by $5 million to promote Etsy products and shops our products on Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Bing. They are also introducing a flexible payment plan for sellers. Visit Etsy for details.
Yelp is offering support to restaurants and bars who are currently advertising on Yelp as well as deep discounts for new customers. They are also offering free access to Yelp Reservations and/or Yelp Waitlist the next three months. Visit Yelp for details.
Support Local is an initiative that lets you show your support for your local businesses during this challenging time by purchasing gift cards now to be redeemed later. The platform is built by Gannett, a news media company that includes USA TODAY, but is merely a pass-through to individual business websites. Business can sign up to offer gift cards and customers who still want t0 support local can visit Columbia's page.
The Tribune is creating an interactive map of local businesses to give customers quick click information about changes in hours, special services like delivery, curbside pick up, or even virtual tours - whatever you need them to know. Business owners can access a Google Form to add basic information (business name, phone number, address, website URL, etc.) and what information you want your customers to know right now. That information will be imported into an online map.