Marin businesses struggling to stay afloat through the coronavirus pandemic are being tossed a life raft in the form of $915,000 of federal aid.
Qualified small business owners will be able to apply for grants of no more than $10,000 and interest-free loans of no more than $50,000, starting Feb. 22. The application will enter the business into a lottery for a funding award. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. March 15.
“These funds are a much needed boost to support the small business community in retaining jobs and keeping businesses afloat, but they will not come close to addressing the full need,” said Molly Kron, a county community development agency planner. “The goal is to help small business retain jobs, keep their doors open with decreased revenues, and ensure that small businesses not able to operate are still viable when restrictions are lifted.”
Kron said the Marin Recovers community partners working group, a collaborative of Marin’s towns and cities, are continuing to find solutions to support local businesses.
Of the total, 53% of the Marin County Small Business Fund will be made available for businesses in or near San Rafael, 27% for those in or near Novato and the rest will be tied to coronavirus infection rates, county staffers said.
The fund includes $800,000 in loans that was obtained through Community Development Block Grants distributed through the CARES Act. The $115,000 remainder is grant money.
“The fact that the county has allocated federal dollars towards supporting small business considering many other resource demands is important and a signal that they understand the hardship businesses are facing,” said Mike Blakeley, chief executive officer of the Marin Economic Forum.
“Making financial resources available to the business community, including supporting entrepreneurs starting new businesses, can be an important approach to rebuilding and growing the economy in the future,” Blakeley said. “The possibility of a longer term loan fund, offering preferred financing for businesses in the areas recommended by the CDA, could also stimulate more business activity and hiring of locals in those areas. Business growth and employment will be critical to restoring the economy.”
The Mission Economic Development Agency, based in San Francisco, is distributing the funds.
Nathanial Owen, director of the agency said, it’s important to note that this is primarily a loan program. But the loans are no interest, no fees, no collateral and no personal guarantee.
“That last point, no personal guarantee, is really important because this means that if the business fails due to the pandemic or the overall economic climate, then the business owner will have no personal obligation to pay back the loan,” he said. “We will never come after personal assets and the loans will never report to their consumer credit. We recognize that our ability to prognosticate about future economic conditions for small businesses is very limited right now during the pandemic, so we’ve designed a loan product that tries to prevent as much potential downside as possible.”
Owen said the agency is working with the Canal Alliance to spread the word in the community.
To qualify, business owners must provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or Social Security Number (SSN); be a business located in Marin and with a business address in Marin; have a valid Marin business license and be a for-profit business in good standing.
They must also have annual business revenues of less than $2.5 million; have no town, city, or county tax liens or judgments; demonstrate a 25% drop in revenues since January 2020 and have no more than 50 employees. Businesses that previously received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of more than $150,000 will not qualify.
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