As pandemic persists, the loan program is adapting to reach even more businesses, with a focus on the underserved, diverse businesses across the state and serve as a long-term bridge for the economy
The Rapid Recovery Loan program for small businesses and family farms launched quickly in March by a coalition of nonprofit lenders in response to the COVID-19 related economic crisis.
The first-of-its-kind program launched quickly to ensure timely support-approving 996 loans so far, totaling more than $35 million in small business loans.
As the pandemic continues and it is increasingly apparent this support is needed for the long-term, the program is adding key features including technical assistance for small-business owners and an extended loan repayment term.
Raleigh - The NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program, which launched in late March to support small business owners and family farms in the wake of the pandemic, has amended operations to better respond to the ongoing challenges facing North Carolina businesses.
"We launched this program at the end of March as an urgent response to a sudden, major economic crisis facing our state's economic backbone--small businesses and family farms," said NC Rural Center President Patrick Woodie. "We are aware of the stress and uncertainty our state's business owners are facing as the pandemic continues, and we are adapting to meet the longer-term needs of the situation."
The NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Program launched on March 24, three days before the CARES Act was signed into law. The program started with an initial $15 million contribution from the Golden LEAF Foundation and since that time, private and public entities, including the North Carolina General Assembly, have contributed funds to expand the program's available lending capital.
To address the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic and help boost this loan program to as many potential businesses as possible, the NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program now offers technical assistance for business owners seeking to complete an application. The loan's terms have also changed from a 48-month repayment term to a 60-month repayment term. The program is reaching out to existing borrowers if they are eligible for a loan extension or modification.
"As this crisis has continued into the summer and likely beyond, it is increasingly important to have the capacity to adapt the program to provide longer-term support to businesses statewide through technical assistance on the application process as well as an extension to the repayment timeline," said Woodie. "To put it simply, the economic resilience of our state depends on our collective abilities to adapt and respond to these changes."
Calling for Qualifying Businesses to Apply
Loans are still available for small-business owners and family farms--and the NC Rural Center urges businesses across the state to consider the Rapid Recovery program, especially as assistance programs including the Paycheck Protection Program end.
"The federal and state response has been critical to help businesses in the initial aftermath of the pandemic-based economic crisis," said Gregg Thompson, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. "Not only was this NC-based Rapid Recovery program critical as an early bridge for North Carolina businesses to wait on the PPP loans, but it is very possible that it will need to continue as a lifeline for small businesses until the end of the year."
Some North Carolina applicants either did not complete or withdrew their applications, and others decided to decline the loan because they are wary about taking on debt in uncertain times. The program is providing business experts as well as credit counselors to help business owners better understand their options regarding this new loan program. The partnership is also increasing its outreach to businesses that began, but did not complete, the application.
"We encourage all qualifying businesses and farms to consider this program. By adding technical assistance and extending the loan repayment terms, we've addressed some of the needs expressed by small-business owners," said Barry Ryan, vice president of the NC Rural Center. "It's increasingly clear that we need this type of long-term support for North Carolina's business community. We cannot eliminate the existence of the coronavirus, but we can do our part to ensure more businesses have access to capital to help preserve our economy."
Key Program Data To-Date
To-date, the loan program has administered 996 Rapid Recovery loans, totaling more than $35 million. This is 425 percent more than the number of disaster recovery loans the NC Rural Center alone administered for Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Dorian combined.
Currently, 64 percent of the approved NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery loans are to historically underutilized businesses (HUB), which are primarily women- and minority-owned businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 31 percent of employer businesses in North Carolina meet the HUB definition. Additionally, of the loans made, approximately 77 percent have been to businesses with fewer than 10 employees.
About the NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program
The NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program is driven by a partnership between the Golden LEAF Foundation and the NC Rural Center, as well as a consortium of established North Carolina nonprofit lenders, including Business Expansion Funding Corporation (BEFCOR), CCI Fund, Carolina Small Business Development Fund, Mountain BizWorks, Natural Capital Investment Fund, Piedmont Business Capital, Sequoyah Fund, and Thread Capital. The Golden LEAF Foundation provided initial funding for this program, and capacity to meet the current demand has been expanded through funds appropriated by the North Carolina General Assembly, as well as by public and private contributions. The Rural Center acts as a program administrator, managing the flow of loan applications to lending partners for underwriting and servicing.