State disaster declaration green-lights small-business loans

HARLINGEN — The economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus has suspended operations of many local small businesses, but avenues of help are emerging.

The state-of-disaster declaration by Gov. Greg Abbott last week triggered the federal disaster loan program of the Small Business Administration, and officials are urging Valley business owners to begin the application process.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans, known as EIDL, offer up to $2 million per business at an interest rate of 3.75 percent for businesses which are unable to secure credit elsewhere. Businesses with credit available from other lenders are not eligible.

“We’ve been flooded with calls,” said Angela R. Burton, Lower Rio Grande Valley SBA district director, said Monday.

“I understand there’s quite a bit of wait time and what-not, but first and foremost, I want to encourage folks to apply,” she added. “We’re in unprecedented times and we’re experiencing some fairly long wait times. But I know that SBA is doing the best they can to make sure we take care of every single small business owner who wishes to apply.”

The 2.7 million small businesses in Texas employ nearly half the state’s workforce, said Justin Crossie, SBA South Central regional administrator.

“We will get through this together and SBA will be there providing resources and support to the small business community,” he added.

Burton said there are ways for small business owners to streamline the loan application process.

“I think having all your documentation in order is one way to help expedite the process, making sure that you have your profits and losses and your tax returns and all those types of things ready for the application,” Burton said.

She added that a weekend SBA memo on the EIDL application process warned that some people applying online were having difficulties linked to their web browser.

“We’re encouraging folks to use Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge,” Burton said. “When you’re applying online, those seem to have performed better.”

Burton said small business owners who apply for the EIDL loan are not committed to taking the funds.

“It doesn’t hurt to apply and you’re not obligated to take the loan if approved,” Burton said.

“We will be diligent in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the coronavirus, COVID-19,” she added. “This is an extraordinary disaster declaration. I encourage those businesses impacted by the coronavirus to apply.”