Since the first business closures started occurring in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Watertown Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been assisting clients with questions about disaster loan programs as the North Country was impacted. The SBDC, with primary offices located at Jefferson Community College and a satellite office in Oswego, covers Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego counties and employs four business advisors as well as the regional director, Elizabeth R. Lonergan.
While the SBDC normally assists nearly 700 businesses annually with startups, business plan development, market analysis or financial projections for commercial funding, in just the past 12 weeks SBDC advisors, working remotely from home, counseled over 200 small businesses with disaster loan applications for two federal programs, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as some local emergency working capital programs. To date, SBDC clients have reported they have received over $4,000,000 in funding through these programs.
SBDC Business Advisor Sarah C. O’Connell noted, “The sheer number of phone calls and emails we were dealing with for the first several weeks was incredible, and a lot of what we were doing wasn’t just offering technical advice, but providing a safe place for business owners to get moral support and solid information.” SBDC advisors have been keeping clients apprised of new information, available funding and details as it emerges on allowed use of loan funding, all of this, sometimes on a daily basis.
Currently, the Watertown SBDC is informing clients about the newly-released New York Forward Loan Fund (NYFLF) that offers 5-year loans for small businesses (under 20 employees) that did not receive loans through either EIDL or PPP. The NYFLF allows use of the funds for working capital, inventory, marketing, refitting for new social distancing guidelines, operating and emergency maintenance, property taxes, utilities, rent, supplies, etc. SBDC advisors are also working with clients on their reopening plans as the region heads towards Phase Two. According to O’Connell, “I think our next phase is going to be helping our small businesses with marketing as they move forward. It’s going to be key to reintroduce our North Country residents to come back to shopping, dining, and using services locally.”
SBDC advisors can be reached by voicemail at 315-782-9262 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.