Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, July 21 @ 2:49 p.m.
Crescent City Moves Forward on Microenterprise, Business Loan Programs
Along with asking Crescent City Councilors to approve guidelines for its grant-funded microenterprise and business assistance loan programs, its finance director said the state may use them as a template for other agencies to follow.
“With all the changes that happened because of COVID, this is kind of like a brand new type of program that didn’t really exist before,” Finance Director Linda Leaver told Councilors on Monday.
Crescent City is using 2019-2020 Community Development Block Grant dollars for economic development to fund its microenterprise loan program and business loan programs.
The city received the executed grant contracts from the California Department of Housing and Community Development in the past two weeks, Leaver said. Four City Councilors on Monday approved the programs’ guidelines, allowing them to move forward. Mayor Pro Tem Blake Inscore was absent.
Created out of the work of the Economic Resiliency Task Force, set up to help local businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, both programs offer forgivable loans and technical assistance to local businesses, Leaver said.
Under the state’s Notice of Funding Availability sent to communities in 2020, the CDBG cap for the business assistance loan program was $500,000, Leaver told Councilors last year.
The cap for the microenterprise loan program was $250,000, according to the state’s NOFA.
The microenterprise loan program is geared toward small businesses with five or fewer employees, including the owner, she said, while the business loan program isn’t limited to size.
Microenterprise businesses may be eligible for the program if they are owned by a low- or moderate-income person or employ low- or moderate-income individuals, according to the city’s staff report.
Businesses may be eligible for business assistance loans if they retain or create jobs for low- or moderate-income individuals, according to the city’s staff report.
Thanks to a memorandum of understanding with the county, Crescent City can offer loans anywhere throughout Del Norte County, according to Leaver.
In addition to building on work done through the Economic Resiliency Task Force, the two loan programs are a collaboration between the city, the North Coast Small Business Development Center, the Arcata Economic Development Corporation and the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, said Chuck Wolfe, of Claggett Wolfe and Associates. Wolfe, with help from city staff and the city attorney, drafted the program guidelines.
According to Wolfe, his firm worked with the state to create business and microenterprise loan programs that were similar to the Small Business Association’s Payment Protection Plan program, but having more technical assistance.
This technical assistance will focus on helping businesses determine how best to use the loan dollars they receive and help them respond to market changes and economic changes that have occurred due to the pandemic, Wolfe said.
The guidelines are also set up with future resiliency and sustainability in mind, he said.
According to City Manager Eric Wier, the Economic Resiliency Task Force was created to help businesses weather the pandemic.
“Now the next step is how do we help businesses that have been able to survive,” he said. “How do we help them take the next step in prospering?”
In addition to the microenterprise and business assistance loan programs, the city awarded CDBG allocations to Pacific Pantry for food bank services and the North Coast Rape Crisis Team.