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Chamber of Commerce: Loans available for small businesses affected by COVID-19

“These are trying times, but this, too, shall pass.”

Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Sheila McKinnis offered some hope to business leaders as she opened a call Thursday morning with chamber members to discuss an update on the COVID-19 virus, related recommendations and steps being taken at the state and local level to support small businesses.

School closures and recommendations by local, state and national officials to practice social distancing has left many businesses with no choice but to change their hours, offerings or business model. The swift changes to everyday life have generated economic fear by some in uncertain times.

Chamber President and CEO Pablo Diaz, Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs Jr., Economic Development Foundation Chairman of the Board Mark Buys, Warren County District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson, Warren County Supervisor District 5 Supervisor Kelle Barfield, Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer and Merit Health River Region CEO Ben Richaud were on the call along with a number of chamber members and community business leaders.

COVID-19 testing procedures, the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and COVID-19 legislative updates were discussed on the call.

Diaz led the conversation about the SBA low-interest disaster assistance loans, which became available after Warren County was included in a Declaration of Disaster authorized by the Small Business Administration for the State of Louisiana. The declaration includes all counties in Louisiana and bordering Mississippi counties.

“Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred” said Administrator Jovita CarranzaCarranza in a press release issued earlier today.
According to Pablo Diaz, President & CEO of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce, the loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the impact the ongoing crisis is having on the business.
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020.

Diaz also quickly touched on COVID-19 legislation and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that was signed by President Donald Trump on March 18. Local firm May & Company has been asked to read the piece of legislation and provide insight as to its impact, what it does and what it provides. Once Diaz has that information, chamber members will be invited to join another conference call to discuss the act.

Also on the call, Flaggs and Elfer reiterated that emergency management services in the city and county would not be interrupted during the pandemic.

“I am confident we can get through this, but the next 14 days are going to be critical,” Flaggs said.

Flaggs also mentioned that he was looking into what authority he has in regard to night clubs, bars and restaurants. More than half of the nation’s states have placed restrictions on restaurants and bars with most mandating that the establishments close to dine-in patrons.

“I have not decided anything on that yet, except that I ask that they (restaurants, bars and night clubs) stay below 50 people,” he said. “I just ask that everybody pay attention to healthcare experts and pay attention to the people of authority. There is so much misinformation out there, and I think Vicksburg is well ahead of the curve in terms of precaution.”

To serve the business community, the chamber has created a COVID-19 resource page on their website, which can be accessed at vicksburgusa.com/2020/03/19/covid-19-resources/.

Businesses interested in joining the chamber are encouraged to visit vicksburgusa.com or call 601-636-1012.

About Catherine Hadaway

Catherine Hadaway, as The Vicksburg Post’s publisher, oversees the business operations of the newspaper. She is a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. and is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis where she earned bachelor’s degrees in Business and Religion. She is a Director of Boone Newspapers, Inc., the family company that owns The Post. Catherine comes from a long line of newspaper publishers, starting with her grandfather, Buford Boone, who served as publisher of The Tuscaloosa News and earned journalism's highest honor when he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 for his editorial titled "What a Price for Peace." Catherine is a member of The Rotary Club of Vicksburg, Vicksburg Young Professionals, The Heritage Guild and The Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

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