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The Burlington County Board of County Commissioners have approved the first four zero-interest loans to local businesses impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Riverton Health and Fitness Center’s membership was down to half of its pre-COVID-19 totals.
Likewise, Team Builders Plus, a Marlton-based company specializing in corporate training and executive coaching, suffered substantial losses due to cancellations and reductions in sales due to the pandemic, and the Law Offices of Stephanie Shreter, a small Mount Holly law firm, was forced to let go of its staff.
The fourth business, Auricle Hearing Aid Center, in Cinnaminson was strapped for funds to cover expenses like rent, equipment repair and advertising.
Things are beginning to turn around for all four businesses following a rough 2020, but they reached out to the County for financial assistance to help them grow again.
All four were approved by the Commissioners to receive $50,000 interest-free loans through the County’s Health Emergency Loan Program, also known as HELP.
“From the very start of the pandemic, the Board has made it our mission to provide as much assistance as possible for our residents and small businesses to help them through this unprecedented crisis,” said Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson, the Board’s liaison to the Bridge Commission and Department of Economic Development. “We promised to make HELP available and now we’re proud to deliver it. Extending loans at zero interest will allow these businesses to recover and continue offering service for our residents.”
The HELP loans were created as part of the County’s response to the ongoing health emergency and the economic fallout the pandemic caused.
A total of $660,000 in federal CARES Act funding was secured by the Burlington County Bridge Commission’s Economic Development Office for the loans, which are available to Burlington County businesses experiencing hardships from the pandemic.
The Bridge Commission is also responsible for administering the program.
Loans are capped at $50,000 and can be used for business-related purchases, payroll or other expenses or improvements. There are no closing costs, but jobs must be retained for the term of the loan.
The maximum payback period is ten years and borrowers must have sufficient collateral in business or personal real estate to secure the loans.
The four businesses approved for loans Wednesday have operated in Burlington County for a combined 124 years and they plan to use the financing for a variety of purposes, including to rehire staff to pre-COVID levels and to help finance other expenses, such as equipment repair, maintenance and advertising.
“Small businesses make up the backbone of both our county’s economy and the state at-large and so many of them have suffered revenue losses linked to the pandemic,” said Hopson. “By extending zero-interest loans, we’re providing a lifeline to help them get through these tough times and rebound to better days. The fact that two of these businesses intend to rehire employees they were forced to let go of earlier is incredibly encouraging.”
Loan money is still available. Business interested in applying can find more information at http://www.bcbridges.org/covid19-resources/
In addition to voting to approve the small business loans on Wednesday, Hopson announced the formation of a new partnership between the County Commissioners, County Economic Development Office and Burlington County Regional Chamber of Commerce to create a Burlington County Business Hub.
Through the partnership, the County and Chamber expect to hold monthly seminars for existing small business operators and those interested in launching enterprises in the county. The Hub will provide a one-stop shop for businesses to go for information about regulations and requirements, available assistance and other programs and promotions, such as the County’s revived Shop Burlington County First initiative.
“Whether you’re already established, a new business or an entrepreneur who is looking to start their own enterprise, we want to help county businesses to have all the information they need to succeed,” Hopson said. “We’re thrilled to partner with the Chamber and look forward to getting this initiative off and running.”