Federal Resources to Aid Local Small- and Mid-Sized Businesses

The coronavirus pandemic is causing financial difficulties for small businesses everywhere. In this guide, we share resources that can help you navigate this difficult situation.

A red keyboard button with coronavirus written on it.
A red keyboard button with coronavirus written on it.

We may receive compensation from partners and advertisers whose products appear here. Compensation may impact where products are placed on our site, but editorial opinions, scores, and reviews are independent from, and never influenced by, any advertiser or partner.

The ongoing global pandemic regarding COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, has businesses across the country on edge.

And while you may be overwhelmed with a helpless feeling as you wonder what’s next for your business, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and make sure you emerge stronger than ever once the crisis is under control.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers critical resources that can help you make sure you operate as a responsible business owner and keep your doors open even if you run out of cash reserves.

What businesses must do now

Before you worry about staying open, you need to take steps now to prevent the spread of the illness. The SBA is asking businesses to observe the CDC's guidance, and authorities recommend that you do three main things in particular:

  • You must require sick employees to stay home: Do not be tempted to try to keep your business open by suggesting sick employees keep working, as they are highly likely to spread the virus and worsen the pandemic. And it's not good enough to send them home when they arrive — you should be actively encouraging them to stay home if they are sick.
  • Conduct routine cleanings: You should be routinely going around and sanitizing shared surfaces in the workplace, especially things like workstations, doorknobs, countertops, and elevator buttons. Have disposable wipes and hand sanitizer handy.
  • You should encourage telework if possible: Businesses are encouraged to allow their employees to work from home if at all possible. Even those who do not appear to be sick may be asymptomatic and spreading the disease, and they are at a growing risk of contracting the disease by being in public. You can help slow the pandemic by doing your part and keeping people home.

Refer to the CDC's website for more detailed guidance for businesses.

Federal resources that your small business can take advantage of

1. Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

There’s good news if you're concerned about running out of cash after closing your business down for a few months due to the virus.

You can get a low-interest loan of up to $2 million via the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, provided you have been impacted by COVID-19 and live in one of the following states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington.

That list will almost certainly expand as the virus spreads. You can fill out an application on the SBA’s website.

Once you've submitted your application, the SBA will review your credit and conduct an inspection to verify your losses. You can expect a decision on an application within two to three weeks, according to the SBA's site.

Within five days of the decision, you'll typically receive an initial disbursement of $25,000, and a case manager will work with you to schedule subsequent disbursements and a payment schedule.

2. Lender Match

A disaster-based loan is not the only way to get cash assistance through the SBA. The SBA also has developed Lender Match, which is a free online tool that connects small businesses with SBA-approved lenders within 48 hours.

Lender Match includes the following loan programs:

  • 7(a) program: Offers loan amounts of up to $5 million
  • Express loan: Offers loan amounts of up to $350,000 with a turnaround time of 36 hours
  • Community Advantage: Offers loan amounts of up to $250,000 to businesses in underserved markets
  • 504 loan program: A loan program for fostering economic development and job creation
  • Microloan: Offers loan amounts of up to $50,000

3. Government contractors

If you're a government contractor, there are resources available to you, too. The SBA offers programs and resources to help small business contracting programs and small businesses with federal contracts stay open during the outbreak.

The following programs are available to help these businesses:

  • 8(a) Business Development: A program aimed at businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged people or entities
  • HUBZone: A service that businesses can contact every Thursday from 2–3 p.m. ET (call (202) 765-1264, access code 63068189#) that will help you navigate the certification process
  • Women-owned small businesses: These businesses can email wosb@sba.gov or visit sba.gov/wosbready for help

Final thoughts

These are difficult times for any small business owner, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. The SBA is well aware of the problems you are facing and they are ready and willing to assist in providing your business with the liquidity you need to keep your business open during the COVID-19 crisis.

So now is a good time to take a few hours and start exploring your options and drawing up a plan for success.

5 Software Apps Every Small Business Owner Needs – And 3 to Avoid!

Focusing on the wrong software can cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars -- not to mention hours of headache. That’s why we created this free, 13-page report. Discover the 5 most critical apps to help you run your business (as well as the ones you probably don't need). It’s a must-read!

The Motley Fool has a Disclosure Policy. The Author and/or The Motley Fool may have an interest in companies mentioned.