Macon County is stepping up its efforts to help business owners who have been negatively impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the economic development commission announced the start of a new low-interest loan program called the “Reopening Macon Fund,” aimed at helping businesses bridge the gap during tough economic times.
Businesses can apply for loans from $2,500 to $10,000 at interest rates between 4 and 5.5 percent. The initial investment, totaling $257,500 to set up the loan program, was made by the Macon County Board of Commissioners. Additional agencies sponsoring the program include the Franklin Area and Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Southwestern Community College, Western Carolina University and Mountain BizWorks.
“We know that a number of our small business have been struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic began and we think this program is one that can help them directly,” Macon County EDC Director Tommy Jenkins said. “Even as restrictions relax, and more businesses reopen, it’s going to be a while before businesses get back to pre-virus levels.”
To be eligible for the loan program, a business must be located in Macon County, have between one and 49 employees, have been in business at least one year and have suffered a 25-percent decline in revenue due to COVID-19.
Loan terms range from six to 42 months. The interest rate for months 1-6 is 4 percent. The interest rate for months 7-42 is 5.5 percent.
“COVID-19 has greatly impacted Macon County’s economy and the recovery will take time,” said Jim Tate, chairman of the Macon County Board of Commissioners. “Providing financial resources for local businesses will play an essential part in reopening our economy.”
Mountain BizWorks, a non-profit community financial institution based out of Asheville, will be the administrator of the Reopening Macon Fund, providing loan processing and underwriting services.
“The Reopening Macon Fund will provide much needed assistance to our small business community,” commissioner Ronnie Beale said. “Many do not have the resources to weather a long-term recovery. A loan of $2,500, or $5,000, could make the difference in surviving or being forced to close.”
Loan applications are being accepted now and there is no deadline to apply.
Locals businesses can apply online at mountainbizworks.org/reopeningmaconfund or contact the Macon County Economic Development Commission at 828-369-2306 for further information.