The city of Aiken has created a $1 million loan program to tide over small businesses until federal aid reaches them.
“Here we were making a plan to aggressively seek new residents and new businesses to our community," Mayor Rick N. Osbon said in a news release. "Overnight, the earth shifted under our feet, and it became clear that lending a hand to our existing businesses and doing all we could to retain them through this crisis was clearly the right thing to do."
The loan program, approved as an emergency ordinance by the Aiken City Council on March 23, will offer up to $10,000 for qualifying businesses, the release said. Loans will be deferred for six months with a 2% interest rate. So far, the city is providing financial counseling to 83 of the 200 businesses that have contacted them about the loan.
Qualifying businesses must be located in Aiken, employ 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees, hold a sound city business license and demonstrate financial impact from the COVID-19 outbreak since March 1, according to the release.
The city is partnering with Security Federal Bank to underwrite the loans and serve as a servicing partner, according to the release. The Aiken Chamber of Commerce and development group The Aiken Corp. also will collaborate with the city and Security Federal Bank to offer loan guarantees to businesses in need.