The executive director of the Appalachian Development Corp., has witnessed small business development in hurricane-wracked Florida but COVID-19 presents challenges unlike any he has experienced with regional natural disasters.
“This is a different scenario; it’s very strange,” Connally Bradley said. “I say people should go ahead and get to work on their game-plan and hopefully, people won’t need it, but at least they will know what they need to do — if they do need it — instead of panicking.”
Bradley said he has not heard any new developments on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s disaster relief loans since the SBA’s news release last week, as the loan package amount hinges on ongoing federal debate, but he praised South Carolina’s quick follow-up to request state eligibility. In the meantime, he encourages small business owners to start gathering information on the financial cost of the new coronavirus outbreak and begin outlining recovery strategies.
He said some businesses have frozen all spending and cancelled all travel plans to reduce costs in the interim.
SBA financial disaster loans will not be made available to small businesses with external capital, so Bradley also suggested that businesses with an existing lender relationship initiate conversations with lenders about the best steps forward.
“If they have loans now, they should contact their lender and say, ‘Hey, I don’t need it now but what is available in case I need it,’ to go ahead and get that dialogue going,” Bradley said. “As a lender, I appreciate that, so we have a heads up.”
Small businesses, making up the majority of all business in the state, according to Bradley, remain particularly vulnerable.
“I hope this doesn’t happen, but there may be some businesses that just can’t recover from this. They’ve been impacted too much,” he said.
Many of Appalachian Development Corp.’s current borrowers have reaffirmed that they have adequate reserves to weather a financial slowdown caused by the virus for the time being, while some of those that lack the resources to bridge the gap have called to reassess financial options.
Michele Abraham, state director of S.C. Small Business Development Centers, said in an email that while physical SBDC offices have been closed, representatives are continuing to work remotely and offer private business consulting.
“We are working closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration to get regular updates on disaster loans and prepare to assist clients with applications as soon as they are available,” Abraham said. “We are also working with the S.C. EMD and S.C. Department of Commerce to assist businesses that need help to weather this storm.”