By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
As the Executive Director of the Tucker County Development Authority, Steve Leyh presented valuable information on the most recent, teleconference meeting of the Tucker County Commission. The Development Authority is committed to encouraging growth and opportunities within the county, enhancing and maintaining of economic development, and the preservation of Tucker County’s values and heritage. However, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the nation, especially targeting smaller, local businesses, the Authority has become a hub for opportunities, resources, and guidance.
“On behalf of the 403 businesses in Tucker County, and the entire board of the Tucker County Development Authority, thank you for your continued support of economic development, especially at this crucial time,” began Leyh during the commission meeting. One of the main responsibilities within the Authority is to provide continued support and guidance to not only the businesses within the county, but also the entrepreneurs.
Leyh explained, “Had I addressed the County Commission a few weeks ago, I would have described Tucker County’s economy as robust. I would have shared news of multi-million-dollar investments, record low unemployment rates, extraordinary new business growth, and rising household income levels. While the future is still unknown, there is little doubt that challenging days lay ahead.” He continued, “Today, I can report that many of Tucker County’s businesses and workers are facing an unprecedented economic disruption due to the COVID-19 outbreak. For many entrepreneurs, 2020 will be their first experience with a struggling economy.”
Mettiki Coal, Kingsford Charcoal, and the Rubenstein Center are examples of some of the larger employers across the county that he stated have been able to maintain operations. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the other businesses have been forced to close their doors which in turn has resulted in several laid off employees. Leyh said, “The Tucker County Development Authority is here to help Tucker County businesses overcome the challenges created by this health crisis. We will get through this together and we are resolved to be with you every step of the way.”
One change that has been made to the Authority’s website, www.TuckerWV.com, now features a COVID-19 resource page. On that webpage, you will be able to find reliable information relating to the pandemic that is updated constantly. Leyh elaborated, “In collaboration with other community organizations, we are rapidly developing a new tool to help support our local small businesses. We’ve been in constant communication with the state and federal government over the last few weeks, in part, to share the impacts Tucker County is experiencing – but also to become well-informed about the government’s response to help people.”
On March 27, President Trump signed into law what is being referred to as the CARES Act, containing $376 billion to aid Americans and small businesses. “It is becoming clear that some of the programs in the CARES Act may not be enough to sustain a business through a long disruption, and the relief is not coming as quickly as we hoped, but it is one of the only tools we have to work with right now,” stated Leyh.
The CARES Act has several temporary Small Business Administration (SBA) resources in response to COVID-19. “There are four key programs that businesses and organizations in Tucker County should become familiar with, and possibly take advantage of,” explained Leyh, who then provided a brief overview of each. More information and details can be found at www.TuckerWV.com or by going to www.SBA.gov.
The first highlight provided by Leyh is referred to as the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Advance (EIDL Advance). “These programs are for any small business with less than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private non-profit organization or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by COVID-19,” he began. “This advance provides economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance is up to $10,000 and is based on the number of employees (owners are counted as employees).” Upon successful application, funds will be made available within a few days and the loan advance will not be required to be repaid. “The loan and loan advance use the same application and application is made through the SBA website. There is a check box within the EIDL loan application to be considered for an advance. You do not have to accept the EIDL loan, if offered to get the EIDL advance,” Leyh continued.
The EIDL loan can lend up to $2 million for working capital with a 30 year term limit. Rates for businesses are listed at 3.75% and 2.75% for non-profits, though payments can be deferred for up to one year. For amounts of $25,000 or less, collateral is not required, but for amounts exceeding $25,000, general security interest in business assets will be used for collateral rather than real estate. “Again, the application for the EIDL and EIDL advance is made directly on the SBA website at covid19relief.sba.gov. You do not have to accept the EIDL loan, if offered to get the EIDL advance and the advance does not have to be repaid,” reiterated Leyh.
The next program Leyh showcased was the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. To be eligible for this option, you must be a business with fewer than 500 employees which also includes sole proprietors, independent contractors, and those who are self employed. Non-profit 501(c)(3), Veterans Organizations 501(c)(19), and Tribal businesses are also eligible to apply for this program. “SBA will forgive Paycheck Protection Loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. At least 75% of the loan is to be used for payroll,” Leyh explained. These loan payments can be deferred for up to six months, no collateral or personal guarantees required, and no small business fees apply. “Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease,” he continued. This loan matures over the course of two years with a 1% interest rate. As of now, this program will only remain available through June 30, 2020. “You can apply through any existing SBA lender. We are lucky in Tucker County that all four of our local banks are participating in this program and are there to help our business community. If you are interested, I recommend you visit the website SBA.gov website and then follow up with a call your bank,” suggested Leyh.
The final program highlighted during Leyh’s presentation to the commissioners is known as the IRS Employee Retention Credit. “This is an IRS program designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19,” Leyh began. “The credit is available to all employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations. There are only two exceptions: State and local governments and their instrumentalities and small businesses who take small business loans. You cannot take the tax credit if you are participating in the EIDL or Paycheck Protection Program.”
To qualify for this credit program, the applicant must fit one of two criteria. One, the employer’s business must have been partially or fully suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter, or two, the employers gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Leyh added, “Wages are not limited to cash payments, but also include a portion of the cost of employer provided health care.”
In conclusion, Leyh stated, “Although the Tucker County Development Authority is a small entity, we are a nimble one. We are here to assist our business community, and we will continue to help now and into the future.” It is much anticipated to see the doors re-opened of the businesses throughout the county. For full details on any of the above mentioned programs, please refer to www.SBA.gov or www.IRS.gov. A hub for additional resources and COVID-19 updates can be found at www.TuckerWV.com, or for additional questions or concerns, feel free to call 304-614-8839.