Recognizing the enormous financial impact on local businesses resulting from drastic operational changes and closures due to the COVID-19 containment and social isolation measures, on March 20 Columbia City Council unanimously passed A Resilient Columbia: Economic Sustainability Plan. The plan provides forgivable loans offering short-term financial relief to small businesses, located within the corporate limits of Columbia, impacted by a loss of revenue because of COVID-19 containment and safety efforts.
“The foundation of Columbia’s economic success is through the stability of our locally owned businesses, many of whom were directly impacted by the social distancing pause button needed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in our communities. Because our City Council is dedicated to working for working people, it was vital to enact the Resilient Columbia Small Business Stabilization Plan quickly to sustain our local economy, and we see the funding has been crucial in helping these small businesses weather this pandemic storm,” said Mayor Steve Benjamin. “To date, the stabilization funds have reached 323 businesses, many with staffs of five or less people. More than $410,000 has gone directly to either maintaining rent or lease payments, as well as meeting payroll to ensure Columbia’s working citizens can survive this unprecedented period of financial hardship.”
The City of Columbia has made 323 awards – totaling $1.4 million in revenue assistance. These funds were made available in March, at the onset of business closings in recognition of the severity COVID-19 would have on our local businesses that are critical to the character and economic stability of the region. “The funds allocated for this program by City Council have been exhausted, however, the City continues to seek opportunities through federal programs for additional funding to replenish the Small Business Forgivable Fund. As those funds become available, the City will ensure the community is aware of future opportunities,” said City Manager Teresa Wilson.
To date, the forgivable loans, with an average amount of $4,300, have reached:
14.9% (48) restaurants
17% (55) salons/barber shops
12.1% (39) professional services
13.3% (43) retail
2.5% (8) construction companies
Other types of businesses awarded the sustainability loans are cleaning services, catering firms, daycares, event rentals, gyms, consulting agencies, photography studios & technology companies.
The awarded companies have been in business:
1-2 years – 15.2% (49)
3-5 years – 21.4% (69)
6-10 years – 18.9% (61)
More than 10 years – 44.6% (144)
N/A & N/A Veterans – 43.3% (140)
Minority & Minority Veterans – 37.5% (121)
Non-minority women – 19.2% (62)
From business owners who have received Resilient Columbia Economic Sustainability loans:
“Coronavirus poses a unique threat, but with your help we are going to get through this difficult time. We are using 100% of the funds for our employee payroll. Thank you for your support, your leadership during this time, and for your speedy action.”
“This is great news as I was highly considering that I should close if I don’t have the finances. You might have just saved my business from going under!”
“Good morning and thank you, the Mayor and City Council so much for looking out for the small businesses in Columbia.”
“I am very grateful to the City of Columbia. I feel the support and especially in these very challenging times.”
This Resilient Columbia: Economic Sustainability Plan has been a collaborative effort between Columbia City Council and the Offices of Business Opportunities, Economic Development, and Finance. Staff in all departments are working together to make sure the funds are distributed to our small businesses quickly in an effort to provide them needed economic relief during this enormous public health crisis.