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Jackson County unveils new local funding resource

Jackson County has allocated $324,000 for a new program that will provide short-term, low-interest loans to small businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Commissioners approved creation of the All In Jackson Fund during their Tuesday, May 5 meeting.

“The commissioners recognize that these are extraordinary times in which small businesses have been forced to operate within,” Chairman Brian McMahan said in a statement. “Some businesses have been able to offer limited services in a survival mode, while others have not been as fortunate and have had to temporarily close their doors. The All In Jackson County Fund is the first of the board’s efforts to provide some local relief to our local economy.”

Through the fund, small businesses can apply for loans ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to be used for payroll, accounts payable, fixed debts or other bills the business is unable to pay due to coronavirus impacts, but funds cannot be used to refinance existing debt. No payments will be required for the first six months of the loan, but interest will accrue at 4 percent during that time. After six months, the principal will convert to a second phase of three years at 5.5 percent interest. 

It is expected that many loans will ultimately be repaid from other funding resources like Small Business Administration Disaster Loans. However, said Jackson County Economic Development Director Rich Price, the All In Jackson program will “quickly and efficiently get this funding into the hands of our business owners, their employees and their creditors.”

To be eligible for a loan, a business must have fewer than 50 employees, including part-timers, be principally based in Jackson County and have a physical location there. Recipients must be for-profit businesses with a demonstrated revenue loss of 25 percent or more due to COVID-19, and they must agree to provide impact data. 

Commissioners authorized the loan through an amendment to the county’s Revolving Loan Fund Program, adding a section at the end that allows the county to use the funds for businesses suffering losses due to COVID-19. The section states that, unlike in the standard Revolving Loan Fund program, these loans can be used for operating costs as well as for capital expenses and allows for the terms of these loans to be different from the terms described for typical Revolving Loan Fund awards. An additional section allows the county to use the fund this way during future states of emergency as well, unrelated to COVID-19. Such uses could be authorized  “by simple resolution without the need for a public hearing.”

Jackson County is partnering with the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks to administer the All In Jackson Fund, and while the initial allocation is for $324,000, the county’s contract with Mountain BizWorks allows for a fund of up to $750,000. The county could authorize additional funding in the future, but contributions are also welcome from foundations, organizations and individuals. 

Mountain BizWorks administers a similar fund for Haywood County, called the Haywood Recovery Fund. The loan sizes and terms for that fund are similar to those stipulated for the All In Jackson Fund, with some differences. Those differences include a size limit of 25 employees for eligible businesses and a requirement that applicants have been in business for at least 12 months. 

For more information about the All In Jackson Fund, visit www.allinjacksonnc.com. Information about the Haywood Recovery Fund is available at www.mountainbizworks.org/hrf

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