Thirty-eight local businesses applied Tuesday to be considered for the Columbia Housing Programs Division’s second round of loans intended to help small enterprises recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Randy Cole (copy)

Columbia Housing Programs Manager Randy Cole

The Housing Programs Division has $175,000 available in Community Development Block Grant money from the CARES Act for 35 loans of $5,000. The loan money must be spent within 90 days.

Housing Programs Manager Randy Cole said the application portal opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday and closed at 5 p.m.

Of the 38 applicants, 33 are owned by either minorities or women, Cole said.

Cole said outreach through the local branch of the NAACP, the Minority Men’s Network and several Black entrepreneurs in Columbia helped make this happen.

“We connected them with the information, and they connected people with how to apply,” he said.

Locally owned businesses that have been in operation for at least 12 months and that have five or fewer employees were eligible to apply for the loans.

Businesses could apply even if they had received a loan from the previous round of microenterprise loans in April, so long as they could prove they had additional expenses that were not covered by the previous $5,000 loans, Cole said.

Cole said the city created a rating system to determine how the businesses would be awarded the loans.

In April, the Housing Programs Division used a first-come, first-serve basis to determine the loan recipients. This time, the city will use these five criteria to determine who receives loans:

1 point for minority-owned business enterprises.

1 point for women-owned business enterprises.

  • 1 point for businesses whose owners live in the city.

1 point for businesses that have not yet received assistance through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the Small Business Administration or other programs.

  • 1 point for businesses that are investing in adapting to the pandemic.

Cole said the Housing Programs Division will turn its attention toward determining the eligibility of all the businesses and scoring their applications.

“If you had equal applications and someone had received assistance before but we have a new business that hasn’t received assistance, that one that has not received assistance would be prioritized ahead of the other one,” Cole said.

He also said if the Housing Programs Division determines there are multiple applicants who are ineligible, it will look to the waiting list to determine the next business that would be eligible. This would include 11 businesses that had not finished their applications before the portal closed.

The loans are fully forgivable, as long as the businesses spend the money on the approved expenses outlined in their applications.

Cole said that in six months businesses will be contacted and asked how they spent the loan money. Based on the responses, the loan would be forgiven or the business would be put on a repayment plan. Businesses also can give back any extra money they did not spend.

“Over the next week to week-and-a-half, we’ll be announcing to the businesses that qualified what the next steps are,” Cole said.