Columbia business loan programs will prioritize minority-owned businesses
COLUMBIA — The City of Columbia will host a virtual information meeting Thursday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss new loan programs to help small local businesses.
Columbia Housing Programs Division plans to give $575,000 to small businesses who are still struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Housing programs manager Randy Cole says his division has created two different programs that will be open for applications in the near future.
"The Microenterprise Recovery Loan Program and the Small Business Recovery Loan Program were two programs we've crafted to help our community respond to the impacts of COVID-19," Cole said.
The funding for these loans comes from a community development block grant that will allocate $175,000 to the Microenterprise Recovery Loan Program and $400,000 to the Small Business Recovery Loan Program.
The city will give a forgivable loan of up to $5,000 for 35 microenterprise businesses with five or fewer employees. 26 small businesses (with six to 49 employees) will receive a forgivable loan for up to $15,000.
Cole says they anticipate a large number of requests when applications open for the two loan programs.
"I would imagine we'll have each of the programs open for one day," Cole said. "We'll probably have more requests than we have funds."
Cole also says they will prioritize minority and women-owned small businesses since many of those businesses have struggled to get funding during the pandemic.
"Businesses that are in minority ownership would score a point, women ownership as well," Cole said.
Gracious Butterflies Child Care is a minority-owned Columbia business that has had to delay its opening due to the pandemic.
"I was given the news that this will be my facility on January 16," owner Taelor Robinson said. "I'm pushing for next week to open officially."
Robinson plans on attending the virtual meeting Thursday and is looking to apply for a loan for her new business.
She says this will be a great opportunity for local minority and women-owned businesses that have struggled to get financial assistance.
"For years and years already, you know, being a woman and being a Black woman, we are underestimated, overlooked and undervalued," Robinson said. "I'm just really thankful to be a part of this opportunity and for other women to take hold of this opportunity as well."
Antonio Rainey, owner of Vintage Collectible Retro, says he likes the idea of the loans that favor certain businesses that have been overlooked financially during this pandemic.
"It is harder for these groups to get loans from the bank and other financial assistance," Rainey said. "When there's assistance that's directed towards them, it's definitely good help for Blacks and— well, minorities and women."
Cole said the city doesn't have a date set to apply for the loans, but he says they should open up applications in the next month or two.
"We're just waiting for some final checkboxes to be checked by the feds and for them to release the funds," Cole said. "I don't know [an] exact time frame, but I would say within the next 30 to 45 days would be a reasonable estimate."
To find out more information on tonight's meeting and the loan programs, click here.