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Paycheck protection funds run dry, but business resources persist

Thursday morning, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced that funds allocated by Congress for the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans have officially run dry. But not before one local business was able to secure a PPP loan to help its employees.

“This has probably been the best day I’ve had since we had to close,” said Backwater Jack’s owner Laura Scoble. “On day one, when this was available to apply for, I applied for it. I’ve been applying for everything. This particular one, I got call from my banker (Tuesday) morning, and we were approved to pay for our staff’s paychecks for eight weeks, and as long as it goes toward this, it’s a forgivable loan.”

Scoble and Backwater Jacks co-owner Cathy Bell made the tough decision to close down their restaurant the same day North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced restrictions on dine-in services at restaurants throughout the state. Though they’ve been trying to help their staff however they can, Scoble said it was a relief to call the restaurant’s employees and let them know that they were able to find money to pay them.

“I know how hard it is for every single person,” Scoble said. “Everybody’s doing the best they can. It’s not so good for our servers, who work on tips mostly, because that’s not part of the paycheck they get from us. But they weren’t grumbling or anything. They were just glad to have anything.”

Scoble says she hopes to reopen the restaurant on a limited basis for carryout soon and is putting together a GoFundMe account to help her workers in need. More details will be announced at www.backwaterjackstikibar.com and on Facebook @backwaterjacks.

While funding for the program has run out for now, Sarah Bernart, with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina has a message for small business owners — keep applying. During a Thursday teleconference hosted by the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, she shared that message, along with helpful information about available state and federal programs to help business owners struggling financially.

Some of the resources available for local businesses include:

  • The North Carolina Rapid Recovery Lending Program — Kickstarted with $15 million in funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation, this loan program is available for small businesses and family farms to act as a stopgap for expenses that build up between when the crisis hit and when federal loans, insurance payouts and other forms of relief come in. Though that $15 million was fully committed two days after applications went live, the N.C. General Assembly will consider infusing $25 million into that program when it goes back into session later this month. More information is available at www.ncrapidrecovery.org.
  • Small Business Administration — While some programs aren’t available until Congress makes additional funding available, business owners can get the latest information at www.sba.gov.
  • Business Link North Carolina — A division of the Economic Development Partnership NC, Business Link NC is a free service that offers small business counseling by phone, Mondays through Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Business Link can be reached at 800-228-8443, and EDPCNC has a variety of helpful resources at edpnc.com/covid-19-resources.
  • Beaufort County Community College Small Business Center — While in-person meetings aren’t happening right now, the BCCC Small Business Center is also helping local businesses navigate COVID-19, both through virtual counseling sessions and online workshops. More information and additional resources can be found at hwww.ncsbc.net.
  • Small Business and Technology Development Center — With a location at East Carolina University, the SBTDC is also assisting businesses with loan applications and other resources. That office can be reached at 252-737-1385, and more details are available at www.sbtdc.org.
  • NC Works — For those seeking employment or businesses with positions to fill, the Beaufort County NCWorks Career Center is still helping make those connections. NCWorks can also be contacted at 252-940-0900 or ncworks.0520@nccommerce.com. Job seekers can text the word “JOBS” to 252-320-9924 Employers that have immediate hiring needs can text the word “HIRE” to 919-418-3829. For information regarding unemployment insurance, individuals can text the letters “UI” to 919-418-3829.
  • Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce — The Chamber is also making additional resources available for local business owners. Visit wbcchamber.com/resources/covid-19-resources for more information.

“Don’t feel alone out there and don’t feel like you have to do it by yourself,” Bernart said. “There are a lot of great organizations that have plenty of resources that can help you fill out these loan applications. Please take advantage of their help.”

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