COLUMBIA, S.C. — During the June 1, 2021, Columbia City Council meeting, Melissa Linder, Director of the Office of Business Opportunities (OBO), gave an update on the CARES Loan Act funds that have been approved for distribution to businesses within the city affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The City of Columbia received $2.66 million from the federal government’s Economic Development Agency (EDA) for the City’s Resilient Columbia CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund.
As of May 2021, Columbia’s CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund Committee has awarded 24 of 29 approved loans – totaling $2,507,985 since November 2020. Of the loans approved, 42% went to minority owned businesses, 38% to minority women owned, 10% to non-minority women owned and 10% to non-minority owned businesses.
Types of businesses funded include barber shops (receiving $190K) and hair salons ($120K), cleaning services ($161K), laundry and dry cleaners ($50K), counseling services ($35K), food trucks ($50K), retail ($189K), marketing and PR firms ($25K), pet insurance ($100K), property management ($50K) and transport/freight business ($85K).
According to Linder’s presentation, the loans helped to retain 156 jobs and create 80 jobs in the Columbia area over that seven-month period.
The bulk of the funding – 48% -- went to businesses in Columbia Council District 2, represented by Edward McDowell. District 3, represented by Will Brennan, received 31%; District 1, represented by Sam Davis, received 21%. There is still a loan going through the approval process in District 4, represented by Daniel Rickenmann.
Four types of CARES Funding remain available from the City through OBO:
- Columbia Economic Renaissance Fund (CERF), maximum loan amount is $100,000; the city has approximately $625,000 remaining available to loan
- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), maximum loan amount is $100,000; the city has approximately $366,000 remaining available to loan
- Economic Development Administration (EDA) Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, no maximum; the city has approximately $173,000 remaining available to loan
- Economic Development Administration (EDA) legacy loan fund, maximum loan $200,000. The OBO’s successful management of this fund has led to an invitation to de-federalize it so the OBO can offer more flexibility in distribution of funds and removing some of the red tape involved in the loan process.
Linder also presented the results of the 2021 Impact of COVID-19 on Small Business Survey to council.
The April/May 2021 survey had 431 responses from small business owners within the city limits. Most respondents (34%) had been in business for 10 years or more, 53% of the respondents were Black or African American and 36% were white. 58% were female.
The respondents’ top concerns during the pandemic were:
- Lack of cash flow to cover operating expenses, 67.5%
- Reduction in customer demand, 66.4%
- Health concerns, 50.3%
- Limited access to products, 35%
- Minimal staffing levels, 26.7%
When asked which resources would be most useful to your business, business owners' responded:
- Small Business grant, 82.8%
- Low-interest loan, 36.2%
- Technical assistance to identify and apply for all resources available to your business, 35.7%
- Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) for your business, 24.4%
- Support/financial assistance for employees, 23.2%
Responding to how any future financial assistance would be used, respondents said:
- Payroll, 62.6%
- Rent/mortgage, 56.8%
- Marketing, 47.8%
- Debt incurred over the past 12 months, 46.2%
- Equipment, 43.2%
- Insurance, 40.8%
- Updated technology, 32.7%
Finally, small business owners responding to the survey said their future training needs include:
- Building a relationship with financial institutions, 37.4%
- Financial topics, 34.6%
- Updating technology, 33.9%
- Preparing a loan package, 30.6%
- Human resource topics, 20.2%
- None, 27.1%
The OBO has held webinars and workshops to help small business owners with issues relating to the pandemic and will continue to help educate the public about financial resources available and changes in policies and guidelines on funding.
There is still some funding available from OBO. For more information, contact Columbia's Office of Business Opportunities online at columbiasc.net/obo or call (803) 545-3950.