Connecticut is stepping up efforts to help small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis with a range of loan and payment deferral programs, although property tax cancellation is likely a bridge too far.
That was the main message in a conference call this afternoon with Governor Ned Lamont, Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman and DECD Deputy Commissioner Glendowlyn Thames, who each tried to reassure the more of 2,000 people who have called the state government not only feel their pain, but seek relief.
“We’re in a much better shape than many of our peer states,” Lamont said, referring to Connecticut’s $ 200 million surplus and its $ 2.5 billion rainy day fund. . “It can be used up very quickly depending on the extent of the crisis and what the Fed is doing, but we’re in a relatively good position.”
As such, DECD is putting the finishing touches on a small business bridging loan program, which Lehman defined as “a bridge to when revenues start flowing again”. The terms would be 12 to 18 months at zero to 1%, he said. The program would likely be available early next week, Lehman said.
It differs from the loans offered by the US Small Business Administration, whose Economic Disaster Loans offer up to $ 2 million in aid over up to 30 years at an interest rate of 2.75% to 3.75%.
Lamont said he was also in talks with the Banking Department to provide relief to small business owners. “I’m encouraged,” he said. “I think you will find that they will be willing partners for each of you over the next six months.”
“Banks have significant capital,” unlike the 2008-09 financial crisis, Lehman added. “They can be a big part of the solution this time around.”
Controlling companies’ fixed costs is a priority, all three said, Lehman noting that the state’s Department of Labor has already relaxed the requirements for receiving unemployment benefits. He noted that during a typical non-recession period, the department receives about 500 daily requests for such benefits; it received 12,000 yesterday.
In addition, the state has extended its deadline for filing and paying taxes to June 15. Lehman further noted that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has agreed to enforce its 30-day moratorium on shutdowns due to non-payments or late payments to individuals as well. like companies.
Thames noted that Connecticut Innovations, the state’s leading business investment organization, also offers about $ 50 million in bridging loans to businesses already in its portfolio.
In response to a question of whether the state will defer taxes entirely, Lamont said he should discuss the matter with Bureau of Policy and Management secretary Melissa McCaw. Thames cast doubt on the idea, saying, “We’ll have to balance this with our budgetary needs.
LITTLE OUT OF THE WOODS
The governor said the state could face “three, six, nine months of hard work” and mentioned that “more than a hundred people are affected” – presumably referring to the total number of positive cases of COVID -19 state. Since yesterday evening there were officially 96 confirmed cases; this morning came the news that a second resident had died of the disease.
DECD continues to receive responses to its survey of small businesses. Although Lehman did not specify the number of responses received, he said that 50% of companies said they have been operating at or near full capacity since the start of the coronavirus crisis, 30% have reduced production and 12 % had closed.
And while the federal government approved the more than $ 100 billion coronavirus response law for families first, Lamont wondered when this money – and promised supplies to healthcare workers. – would happen. “I will do whatever I can to support this at the state level,” he said.
Some hospitals have “less than a week” of mask supplies, he said. Even with the mass production of masks and other equipment promised yesterday by President Donald Trump’s invocation of the Defense Production Act, the governor said it “could still be a matter of months.” before those supplies arrive.
Lamont said he is not planning to shut down any other line of business, as he has done with restaurants, bars, malls, barber shops, etc. When asked if he would ask the manufacturers to shut down, he replied, “Not at this point. I try to keep the economy as safe as possible as much as possible. “
When asked if closed restaurants would be allowed to deliver alcohol in addition to food – which they are currently prohibited from doing – Lehman said the state is “assessing” the possibility.