Businesses post closed notices and advertise take-out options to their customers. (The Enterprise)

NOTE: The Enterprise is providing free access to its content related to the coronavirus as a community service. Subscriptions at $5 a month help the Enterprise keep this up.

Malheur County businesses that missed the first round of an extraordinary federal funding program will get a second chance when the U.S. Small Business Administration opens the pipeline for applications on Monday, April 27, to award billions in new forgivable loans.

President Trump on Friday signed legislation that puts another $310 billion in the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

LINK: SBA program information

Jeremy Field, SBA regional administrator, said in a telephone news conference Friday afternoon that the agency would start processing loans again at 8:30 a.m. MT on Monday.

He urged business owners to continue working with their lenders to pursue the federal funding.

“The program is helping a lot of people, so it’s worth looking into,” Field said.

The funding is meant to be a financial lifeline for businesses hampered by the economic impacts of the global pandemic.

Under the terms, businesses can borrow up to 250% of their monthly payroll but won’t have to pay it back if they keep employees on and use the money to cover other basic costs such as rent, mortgages or utilities. Businesses would have to repay the money at 1% over two years if it used for other purposes.

The first batch of money for the Paycheck Protection Program lasted just days, and triggered nationwide concern that banks favored their largest customers and left truly small businesses empty-handed.

Field said the data showed otherwise.

He said the average loan size in the first round was $250,000 and that 74% of the loans were for less than $150,000.

He said adjustments were being made for the second round, however, and that $60 billion was specifically sent aside to be processed by community banks and small lenders.

In the first round, 18,700 Oregon firms qualified for $3.8 billion and 13,600 Idaho firms qualified for $1.9 billion.

SBA in about two weeks handled the loan volume that it normally would handle over 14 years, Field said.

“This is a marathon that we are running at a sprinter’s pace,” he said.

He said the agency is more fully prepared for the second round, noting there have been technical upgrades to allow banks smoother access to the SBA process.

In Malheur County, business owners can get help from local banks and from the Small Business Development Center at Treasure Valley Community College.

Greg Smith, county economic development director, announced he would host a two-part webinar on Monday, April 27. The first hour, starting at 6:30 p.m., will be for businesses that haven’t applied for the federal program. The second hour, starting at 7:30 p.m., will handle questions and guide business operators through what documents are needed for the program.

Details on the call will be on the Malheur County Economic Development Facebook page.

Contact editor Les Zaitz at [email protected]