Bridge Loan Program . Getting from Here to There
By Evelyn Pyburn
While getting a disaster loan through the US Small Business Administration is an important salvation for many businesses suffering losses because of the COVID-19 business closures, waiting weeks for the loan approval process may still be too much for some small businesses to survive.
To bridge that gap Big Sky Economic Development (BSED) has structured a more immediate loan process designed to get cash into the hands of small businesses, as soon as possible.
In talking to many small businesses in the Billings area and asking them what they needed to survive, Dena Johnson, SBDC Regional Director and BSED Entrepreneurial Development, said that they were repeatedly told that weeks will be too long to wait. She said that one businessman of ten years in Billings said, “I won’t make it if funding takes more than a couple weeks… I need cash and I need it fast.”
A BSED team went to work structuring a program that would fit the urgent need, which will utilize funds from a reserve set aside by BSED for just such a purpose.
In a special BSED “zoom” board meeting, on Monday, the program received approval and Brandon Berger, BSED Director of Business Finance, was given authority to administer it.
Berger explained that the board made available $250,000 to make interim loans of up to $15,000 per owner /business who has filed for an SBA Disaster Relief Loan. Upon application the funds should be available within 24 to 48 hours. The one year loan will be charged 2 percent interest. When the SBA loan comes through for the business owner, the first disbursement will be to repay the $15,000.
If the applicant should be refused by the SBA for a disaster loan, the BSED bridge loan will convert to a three-year loan.
Details for the “BSED Stabilization Loan Program” are still being worked out, but the US Small Business Administration is accepting applications for disaster loans now. BSED will announce when they are ready to accept applications.
Since SBA 504 loan clients are being offered an opportunity to defer their principal and interest payments for six months to help cope with the losses suffered from COVID-19 economic impacts, Berger said those clients will not be considered eligible for the BSED Stabilization Loan Program. Many of those clients have already applied for deferred payments. Berger said those applications are coming “fast and furious.” So far they have received 19 requests.
[Forms to apply for SBA loans is available on line at https:// www.sba.gov/ disaster/ apply-for-disaster-loan/ index.html? mc_cid= 00841b9e69& mc_eid= 906d2a23d1]
Berger explained that the $250,000 is being drawn from a reserve of $1 million that BSEDA acquired through the administration of a federal Small Business Credit Initiative. BSEDA was charged with loaning the money to businesses and as the principle and interest was repaid the agency was allowed to retain the funds to use as they see fit to support businesses.