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Salt Lake City Mayor To Propose $1 Million Coronavirus Business Loan Program

Photo of a woman in a blue dress standing behind a podium with microphones
Sonja Hutson
/
KUER
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announces a $1 million coronavirus business loan proposal.

As people start to stay inside to slow the spread of coronavirus, Salt Lake City businesses have begun to feel it. In fact, 76% of Salt Lake City businesses have lost more than a tenth of their revenue due to the outbreak, according to a survey from the city. That impact is likely to grow after a Salt Lake County order banning dining in at restaurants goes into effect at 11 p.m. Monday. 

In an attempt to ease that economic burden, Mayor Erin Mendenhall plans to ask the city council during its Tuesday meeting to allocate $1 million for a flexible, low interest rate loan program. 

Many of the details still need to be hammered out, but the idea is that businesses would have longer than usual to pay back what they owe on the loan. 

“We’re encouraging businesses to apply for this funding to help make payroll, to pay bills and to keep their operations program,” Mendenhall said. “I’m asking for a significant and immediate relief package to help small businesses as immediately as possible during this difficult time.”

Ben Kolendar, Salt Lake City’s director of economic development, declined to get into details Monday about why the city was pursuing a loan program rather than a grant program, because city leaders were still working on the details. He added more information would be available Tuesday. 

At the state level, Gov. Gary Herbert has created an Economic Response Task Force to work under the existing state COVID-19 Community Task Force. Federal low-interest loans of up to $2 million from the Small Business Administration should become available soon, now that Herbert has issued a request for them, according to the SBA and Herbert’s office.

SBA spokesman Chris Chavez said they have not yet approved the request but hope to do so within the next week.

Matt Caputo, CEO of the small local deli and grocery store chain Caputo’s, said his company has been able to weather the storm by shifting to more grocery delivery and pickup. 

But many restaurants can’t do that. 

“Most people in the restaurant industry work paycheck to paycheck and people are staying home now," Caputo said. “So those gift certificate purchases at local independent restaurants will go a long way and you have no idea how much they’ll be appreciated right now.”

Unemployment Benefits

Workers who lost their jobs, had their hours reduced, or who have been furloughed due to the coronavirus can apply for and are “likely eligible” for unemployment benefits, according to Kevin Burt, unemployment insurance director for the Utah Department of Workforce Services. 

People who do not have paid sick leave available and stay home because they are not feeling well may be eligible for unemployment benefits, Burt added. 

“The most important thing when it comes to unemployment insurance is don’t convince yourself you’re not eligible,” he said. “If you’re not sure, apply.” 

Rental Assistance

Some cities in other states, including Los Angeles and Seattle, have issued moratoriums on evictions due to coronavirus. 

Herbert said state leaders have not yet discussed whether to do something similar.

“A lot of the stuff we see here is kind of evolving,” Herbert said. “We hope that we can keep the economy going [and] that we won’t have the need to have evictions or people can’t pay their rents.”

Herbert added that the state may instead provide rental subsidies, but no decision had been made yet. 

Mendenhall said that she would rather the state take the lead on an eviction moratorium and would like to know if a municipality like Salt Lake City had the legal authority to institute one. 

“I ask landlords and property owners to be conscientious of your tenants,” Mendenhall said. “Please exercise flexibility when you can, with as much financial patience with regards to rent payments in coming weeks ahead. Now’s the time for us to think like a community.”

Mendenhall added that the city will be looking to expand its existing rental assistance programs and partnerships.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

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