ATLANTA — As business owners are forced to close their doors in response to COVID-19, some are struggling to make ends meet.
"We made the decision that we needed to be part of the solution instead of the problem," said Courtney DeDi, owner of DiOGi Pet Services and Training in Atlanta.
DeDi employs 25 people. She closed her business after hearing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' 14-day stay-at-home order that took effect on Tuesday.
The small business owner is now applying for loans that she can hopefully piece together to stay afloat.
"As much as I don't want to take on any more debt, at this point, it is about taking care of my clients; continuing a business I've had for 10 years and keeping my team employed," DeDi said.
She has applied for two emergency loans being offered currently to small business owners.
The first is from Invest Atlanta. The official economic development authority for the city is offering emergency loans totaling $1.5 million. Businesses in Atlanta can receive loans ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, with 0 percent interest and payments deferred for up to a year.
Invest Atlanta CEO Dr. Eloisa Klementich said that her office had already received more than 150 applications by Wednesday.
"We understand in this time we have to act, act fast and be there to support our businesses to preserve our jobs," Klementich said of the need to assist business owners sooner rather than later.
She added that applications are being reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. The first loan checks could be sent out to applicants as quickly as the following Wednesday, only two weeks after the city approved the use of funds for the emergency loans.
Klementich said Invest Atlanta had also recently surveyed 112 small businesses in Atlanta about the COVID-19 crisis. Of those surveyed, 87 percent responded that they're already having sluggish sales and 74 percent said they're financially unprepared.
"These types of funds are going to be essential to make sure they're able to survive this crisis and continue to exist and provide us with services when this is over," Klementich added.
The second loan DeDi said she applied for is from the U.S. Small Business Administration. She said she applied for this loan as it can provide her with a greater amount of capital and it still offers a relatively low-interest rate.
"Even though there is interest, it is very low and they're basing it (your lown amount) off of your current monthly expenditures, so rent, utilities your payroll."
The SBA disaster loans offer up to $2,000,000 in assistance. Among several requirements, applicants need to have credit acceptable to the SBA, they must offer collateral for loans greater than $25,000 and the first payments are due in one year.
Non-profit businesses can receive an interest rate of 2.75 percent. Small business owners can receive an interest rate of 3.75 percent.
The SBA is stressing applicants apply as quickly as possible, as they're receiving applications from across the country. A spokeswoman also said applications are being accepted online and they're seeing less traffic on their website early in the morning and late in the evening.
"We've never had a nationwide disaster declaration such as this. All states have now been declared and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. So this is unprecedented territory," said Kathy Cook with SBA Public Affairs.
DeDi said she submitted her applications to both Invest Atlanta and the SBA as quickly as possible.
"I'm going to remain hopeful that I will qualify for some kind of assistance from the federal government or Invest Atlanta and keep pushing on."
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