The Ocala City Council on Monday agreed to do its part to help small businesses that are struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Councilmembers voted to make $250,000 available to the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP) for loans of up to $25,000 to some of those businesses. The only caveat was that Council President Jay Musleh sit down with CEP President and CEO Kevin Sheilley to hammer out details and criteria for the loans. The action was taken during an emergency meeting via an online platform that allowed the Councilmembers and city staff to practice social distancing, as everyone participating in the meeting was at a different location.
The City Council’s action follows a similar plan adopted last week by the Marion County Commission. During a similar emergency meeting, the Commission agreed to allot $250,000 to the loan fund, which means up to 20 businesses will be able to secure loans if each is approved for the maximum amount of $25,000.
“It is a start,” Sheilley said at the commission meeting. “It is something that we can do. We think this is a fantastic local response that will help some of our businesses.”
Sheilley said the idea of putting together the loans came about after his staff spoke to local employers.
“They’re concerned about having the cash flow to not only get through the cycle, but to get to the point where they could apply or receive state funds, federal funds, whatever may come from future federal bills,” Sheilley said.
Businesses with 25 or fewer employees as of this past Dec. 31 are eligible to apply for the local loans. A Marion County resident must be the majority owner and the business must have been in operation for at least two years. Eligible businesses also must be non-chain and non-franchise establishments.
The loans would be administered by the CEP’s Foundation, with members of the county’s Industrial Development Authority serving as the review committee. The initial plan calls for 2.5 percent interest to be charged on the 36-month loans. There would be no repayment for the first six months, followed by interest only for the next six months. Principal and interest payments would then kick in and there would be no penalty for early payment.
Those who want to learn more can visit Ocalacep.com.