Richmond County is considering whether to start offering interest-free small business loans.

County administrator Morgan Quicke proposed committing at least $50,000 to the Disaster Impact Loan Program, which would make loans up to $5,000 per business, allowing the county to help at least 10 businesses counter the impact of the coronavirus.

Quicke suggested offering a three-year term with the first payment payable 90 days after the loan is issued. The funding would be open to any business that has operated within the county for the last six months, and the money could be used for expenses such as payroll, utilities, inventory and rent.

The county administrator’s office has already drafted a proposed loan application, which contains questions about collateral and assets.

“But I don’t know that the county wants to be in the business of putting liens on people’s property. I think the purpose of this loan at this time is to be able to get cash out from the county to these businesses very quickly and to be able to help them out if we can,” said Quicke.

His office has also drafted a promissory note that sets the due date for payments on the 5th of the month and calls for a $50 fee on late payments.

Currently, the program’s terms also bar businesses that received an SBA loan or similar funding from applying. That language may need to be revisited Quicke told the board of supervisors.

To operate this program, the loans would have to be facilitated through the Industrial Development Authority, which is the body that has the ability to lend money.

Quicke proposed having the IDA create a loan committee with two of its members and two members from Richmond County’s board of supervisors.

The initial $50,000 to fund the loans could be taken from the money that the county recently received from selling 41 acres of land on the Bypass. And if the county’s leaders wanted to continue the program on a wide scale, more money could be added to program later, Quicke added.

County supervisors have already begun discussing the idea. 

“I’m torn. We’ve sat and cut and cut and cut the budgets. It’s a good thing but I’m a little skeptical,” said chairman Lee Sanders. 

However, the board has placed the matter on the agenda for further discussion at its May board meeting.

Warsaw relieves pressure on restaurants

Warsaw mayor Randall Phelps raised the issue of late fees on restaurants’ meal tax and the likely burden it could have on some businesses. He said that money could probably be put to better use and asked if the town council would be willing to waive them.

Council voted unanimously in favor of waiving late fees beginning with the bill for the month of March and continuing until Virginia lifts the coronavirus-related restrictions on restaurant operations.

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