SALISBURY – As small businesses across the country reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Aregnaz Mooradian says the US Small Businesses Administration has worked diligently to facilitate much-needed relief.
Mooradian, deputy district manager of the North Carolina SBA office, joined the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Council’s virtual meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss what those efforts looked like in the ‘State of Tar Heel.
“The SBA has been very busy,” Mooradian said. “We started with the Paycheque Protection Program about a year and a half ago, which was really meant to help small businesses rescue, to help small businesses cover their payroll. ”
Mooradian said the SBA “designed the plane while flying it” as it partnered with local banks and lenders to administer the repayable PPP loans. Through the program, which is now closed, the SBA has distributed $ 18 billion in financing to North Carolina businesses. Mooradian compared that to the roughly $ 1 billion in emergency relief funds the SBA administers in a typical year.
“It was pretty monumental,” Mooradian said.
The SBA District of North Carolina is headquartered in Charlotte, but also has satellite offices in Raleigh, Wilmington and Asheville.
Mooradian also discussed several other disaster relief programs boosted by the pandemic, including the Grant for Closed Site Operators and Restaurant Revitalization Fund as well as the SBA Disaster Emergency Loan. The EIDL program, which has been criticized by some federal lawmakers for delay in service and transparency, is still open and accepting applicants.
The EIDL loan program does not disperse forgivable loans like the PPP program, but Mooradian said 30-year interest rates are between 2.75% and 3.75% depending on the company. The first installment on loans made in 2021 will have a maturity of 18 months from the date of the note.
Harry McLaughlin, owner of McLaughlin’s Grocery near Livingstone College, told Mooradian it only took him two weeks to receive an EIDL loan.
After providing information on SBA resources related to the pandemic, Mooradian turned his attention to other SBA programs that will be available after the pandemic ends. She focused on those that might prove particularly useful for small minority businesses, such as the SBA. 7 (a) and 504 loan programs.
The SBA, Mooradian said, can work with local lenders to help small and minority business owners get loans they might not otherwise be able to get. More information on government guaranteed loans can be found online at sba.gov/funding-programs.
Mooradian also encouraged minority business owners listening to the meeting to seek certifications through the SBA. By earning the certification of a woman-owned or veteran-owned business, owners will have a greater opportunity to compete for federal contracts. Certifications can help disadvantaged small businesses increase their revenue streams by selling to the federal government, Mooradian said.
“The government spent over $ 700 billion (last year) on goods and services. So roughly 23% is needed to go through small businesses, ”Mooradian said. “The government does this by reserving contract opportunities specifically for disadvantaged small businesses to bid on. “
President of the Rowan Chamber Elaine Spalding and President of the Minority Business Council Elia Gegorek said the council will discuss organizing workshops to help local small businesses become SBA certified.
Mooradian told SBA attendees that they provide advice to small business entrepreneurs. The SBA does this primarily through its SCORE Business Mentorship Program, which is free and connects owners with mentors with domain-specific knowledge. More information about the SCORE program can be found online under “Local Support” at sba.gov.
Esther Atkins-Smith of Candlelight Consultants asked Mooradian if there was a way for minority business owners to provide feedback to the SBA. Atkins-Smith said the process of seeking help can be long and arduous, especially for small business owners who are already pressed for time.
Mooradian has encouraged all business owners who have feedback to visit the SBA Advocacy Office page, which contains contact information for staff overseeing various programs.
In the wake of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), Gegorek took a few minutes to highlight the importance of Hispanic businesses in Rowan County.
“This community gives us a lot,” said Gegorek. “They bring work, manpower, but again, they have a lot of businesses in our community. We have construction, we have renovations, we have stores, we have food trucks and I bet you all enjoyed that.
The next meeting of the Minority Business Council will take place on November 16 at 9 a.m. via Zoom. The speaker will be Trina Fonville from The Benefit Center.
You can find more information about the EIDL program online at sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/covid-19-relief-options/eidl.
You can find more information on public procurement and certifications online at www.sba.gov/federal-contracting.