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Richmond’s Disaster Loan Program Offers Relief to Small Businesses

walkabout outfitters
Walkabout Outfitters in Carytown is one of the 21 approved businesses. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Roberto Roldan contributed to this reporting. 

Securing funds from the competitive federal loan program has proven difficult for some Richmond businesses. But a local pandemic relief effort still has money in the pot for qualifying companies. 

The Richmond Economic Development Authority launched the disaster loan program with a $1 million budget last month. It’s offering six months of payroll or up to $20,000 to help small businesses within city limits stay open. Payments will be made on a monthly basis. 

The EDA said more applications are still being processed — none have been denied yet. Qualifying criteria for businesses include being up-to-date on all local taxes as of late February, 2020; having been in operation for at least two years; and employing less than 25 full-time employees.

Nadia Anderson owns an accounting business, and was approved for the loan. She said the money will allow her to retain her only employee and continue to help other small businesses affected by COVID-19 closures. 

“A lot of my work over the last month has been reading and understanding all these regulations and helping other people apply for things,” Anderson said. 

Anderson said her accounting experience allowed her to get through the application process with little trouble. But that may not be the case for everyone. 

“I had the documents at my fingertips and understood what they were asking me for,” Anderson said. “However, I’ve been working with people who didn’t find the process to be as simple.”

To apply, small businesses have to submit the following to the Department of Economic Development:

So far, a total of $411,200 is already spoken for — more than $15,800 of which has been distributed across five of the 21 approved businesses, including Bellevue Cleaners, Coliseum Loft Deli & Market and Charm School RVA. 

Loans will be deferred for six months — after that, borrowers will have 4 years to pay the money back through interest-free installments. 

Anderson said that relief programs, both local and national, are evolving every day. Whether it’s new information, or changes to application processes — it can be a lot to keep up with for a small business owner. 

“I think it’s beneficial for small businesses to have a relationship with an accountant as well as a relationship with a community bank,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of small businesses that work with large national banks and don't necessarily have a relationship banker, which means they don't have a human that they can call at the bank that knows them and their business.” 

Anderson urges small businesses to explore available relief options. She even compiled a list of COVID-19 resources to get them started. 

“Businesses should be patient with the process as well as with the humans who are learning the process to try to help them through it,” Anderson said. “If you're hitting dead-ends, and someone at the bank that you're working with that isn't helpful, then I suggest reaching out to someone else.” 

For more information about the city’s disaster loan program, and how to apply, visit RVAStrong.org

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