Denison’s small businesses may soon receive financial help during the current economic uncertainty related to the COVID-19 epidemic. The Denison Development Foundation unveiled its new Small Business Emergency Loan Program that it hopes will help local businesses through the the ongoing crisis.


Through this program, the DDF is dedicating $250,000 to provide $2,500, interest-free loans to local businesses impacted by the current downturn. These loans will not be due until the end of 2021.


“The DDF board of directors has been diligently following the economic impact caused by COVID-19, which for many businesses has been devastating,” DDF chairman Aaron Schmitz said. “We waited until the federal programs were unveiled and then crafted our program to provide additional support. We’re going to do everything we can to restart our local economy through supporting our local small businesses.”


Representatives for the foundation said that the loans were designed to augment and supplement other national assistance programs. These programs include the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers businesses assistance in maintaining payroll and staffing, and the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.


Businesses that have already applied for these programs will be given priority in the DDF’s loan program.


In order to apply, a business must be experiencing or projecting a 25 percent in gross receipts and have less than 25 full-time employees in a commercial setting.


Denison Development Alliance President Tony Kaai said program will be focused primarily on businesses in the retail and service sectors. As of Tuesday morning, Kaai said about 250 qualifying retail businesses exist in Denison.


In order to qualify, a business must either be a retail business that paid more than $1,000 in state and local taxes in 2019, or fall under a list of qualified business types, ranging from restaurants and bars to educational services.


In situations were a business does not fall in one of these service categories, Kaai said the DDF is working to consider additional businesses on a case-by-case basis.


Kaai said city leaders and local economic developers have been looking for ways to assist small businesses. However, the DDA, the city’s economic development corporation, is limited by law in what kind of businesses and economic agreements it can make.


While there have been pushes to have some of these laws relaxed temporarily, city leaders felt that the private, non-profit Denison Development Foundation would be better suited to deliver quick and immediate assistance.


“During these unprecedented times, we have small businesses in our community that were thriving a month ago and now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are struggling for financial survival,” Denison Mayor Janet Gott said. “It is incumbent upon us, as a community, to find ways to help them bridge this very difficult time until we can reopen our economy.


“The COVID-19 Small Business Emergency Loan Program, announced today by the Denison Development Foundation, could not come at a better time for businesses that are so important to our community, and I strongly urge our businesses to apply.”


In some cases, Schmitz said the loan could serve as a bridge for businesses until the federal applications can be be accepted, although that was not the main intent. Instead, it was meant to serve as a funding source that could be utilized quickly.


Schmitz estimated that it could take up to a few days for an application sot be processed, depending on demand.


“The intent is for this to be a day or days rather than weeks or months,” he said.


While future programs may not include a loan aspect, Gott said the city is considering other initiatives to assist businesses. Among these are programs aimed at helping businesses transition to online models and e-commerce.


“Our businesses that have adapted and are doing things via online, on the phone, through live sales on Facebook, those businesses are able to keep their heads above the water,“ Gott said. ”It is those that are not using ecommerce that are having difficulty.“


For more information, or to apply please visit DenisonTx.org/apply. Applications will be accepted through June 30.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com. For more coronavirus related news, visit http://www.HeraldDemocrat.com/coronavirus.