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Financial help offered in St. Clairsville during pandemic

T-L File Photo/SHELLEY HANSON SHOWN HERE is some new construction that occurred in downtown Martins Ferry last year. Businesses in Belmont County may benefit from the ongoing Paycheck Protection Program and the new Main Street Lending program.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — New and ongoing aid for businesses struggling through the COVID-19 coronavirus program may prove valuable going forward.

The Paycheck Protection Program and the new Main Street Lending Program were the subjects of a teleconference conference Thursday, with representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration.

Participants included Anne Evans, director of the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, Adam Lerrick, counselor to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and Scott Strah, assistant vice president of supervision, regulation and credit with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

The Paycheck Protection Program has so far provided funds to five million businesses, with loans totaling $520 billion, with $100 billion remaining. The average loan size is also decreasing and 5,500 lenders have signed on to provide loans.

The program will remain open until Aug. 8. The forgiveness portal for the lenders will open Aug. 10.

St. Clairsville Area Chamber of Commerce Director Wendy Anderson afterward said small businesses in her area have been making good use of PPP, and new flexibility has made it more accessible for small businesses.

“They are being able to stay open because of it,” Anderson said, adding the lower loan size is also a good sign.

“It’s getting to all the small businesses,” she said. “There’s 5,500 lenders. … When they changed it from eight weeks to 24 weeks, that also made a big difference. … I think the businesses are getting what they’re asking for.”

She added 60 percent of PPP funds had to be used for payroll.

“There’s a wider use for the loans,” she said.

Businesses are advised to work with their lenders. Another round of PPP legislation may be part of upcoming COVID-related legislation. Those who have already received a PPP loan may be eligible for another, and the small business cut off may be moved from 500 employees or less to 300 or less, with a requirement of showing a decline in revenue of at least 50 percent.

Lerrick outlined the Main Street Lending initiative.

“The goal of the Main Street program is to provide financing to companies and to non-profit organizations that were in good condition prior to the crisis, but because of the crisis have suffered a significant fall in revenue, but with some bridge financing can reach the other side of this crisis and prosper again,” he said.

The program provides five-year loans. For the first year no interest in payable and principal is repaid starting at the end of Year Three with 15 percent, then 15 percent in Year Four and 70 percent in Year Five.”

He said assessment of credit risk is based on 2019 pre-COVID numbers.

“The program is now operational,” Lerrick said. “We have started doing loans. There are banks in every state of the United States and all the territories that are doing Main Street loans.”

Main Street loans are not grants and cannot be forgiven. Main Street shares risks that would otherwise be absorbed by the lenders.

Anderson said the repayment terms and pre-payment options should be valuable for many businesses. She said the availability for non-profit agencies would be a benefit to organizations such as A Special Wish and United Way.

“It’s going to benefit all the businesses on Main Street, and most of our members,” she said. “I think it was a much-needed phone call.”

More information is available at sba.gov or Treasury Department’s website home.treasury.gov, or to MSLP@bos.frb.org

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