Ontario creates loan fund to assist businesses hit hard by COVID-19 virus restrictions

Traffic to local businesses in downtown Ontario was sparse in this April photo because of COVID-19 virus restrictions. The county has reopened to some extent but the city of Ontario is offering a low-interest loan for merchants that were hit hard by the state restrictions. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – Local business suffering from the impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic can now get help from the city of Ontario with a low-interest loan.

The city of Ontario will tap $200,000 from the city’s Business Loan Fund and allows qualified applicants to seek up to $25,000.

No payments are due on the loan for six months and the loan carries a 1% interest rate to be paid back over 24 months.

Businesses that qualify for the city financing may also be able to tap into a matching grant program offered by the state, said Ontario City Manager Adam Brown.

The program was the brainchild of Ontario City Councilor Michael Braden. Braden, who sits on the city’s Business Loan Fund Committee, is also a member of the Malheur Recovery Team, an informal group that aims to help the local economy bounce back from the COVID-19 epidemic.

“We saw it as a way we could help and it was a quick way to do it,” said Braden.

The recovery team includes Brown and Braden; Andrea Testi, director of the Treasure Valley Community College Small Business Development Center; Kit Kamo, executive director of the Snake River Economic Development Alliance; Dan Cummings, Ontario community development director; and John Breidenbach, chief executive officer of the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce.

Cummings said last week the new loan program is another key tool local merchants can use.

“I think it is a pretty good deal if you need it. It is still a loan and you have to pay it back but if you need a little help to stay in business it is a good deal,” said Cummings.

The loan can’t be used for businesses to refinance, expand or other infrastructure upgrades.

The initial requirements to qualify for the loan, said Cummings, are straightforward. 

 “Basically, a copy of a driver’s license, P&L for two years and a brief history of the business and documentation of employees. Basically, showing you’ve been in business and you will use the money for paying your payroll and things like that,” said Cummings.

The loan amount a business can potentially qualify for climbs with its total number of workers.

For example, a business with five employees or less can qualify for $2,500 initially, or $5,000 if it chooses to submit documentation of 60 days of fixed expenses.

A business with 20 to 25 employees can qualify for $12,000 initially and up to $25,000 if it produces 60 days of fixed expenses to the city.

Cummings said the loan requirements don’t require collateral.

“It is as little risky for the city but, at the same time, you hope you are lending to people who are honestly trying to stay in business and honestly try to pay it back,” said Cummings.

Brown said about $400,000 is in the Business Loan Fund now.

“I hope it works to help people who need it,” said Cummings.

Cummings said he believes people will be interested in the new program.

“I think we will get some people applying for it,” said Cummings.

For more information on the loan program, contact Cummings at 541-881-3222.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].


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