The COVID-19 pandemic, and perhaps more to the point, its related shutdowns and quarantines have had a massive impact on nearly every aspect of American life–including business.
We all had to adapt – very quickly, in most cases – to the new realities of spending more time at home, even as our work and educational duties persisted. Working from home or taking classes virtually was a major change for a lot of us, and even those of us who weren’t self-employed or small business owners found themselves needing to get used to a very strange new reality, full of awkward Zoom calls and frequent wi-fi outages.
Of course, for those of us that do own a small business, even in part, the changes were even greater.
The quarantines affected nearly every part of how we were able to do business. Locally-owned retail was forced to drastically cut back on the amount of people that could be in their store at any given time (and that was after several months of not being able to operate at all, in the case of several states), and locally-owned restaurants – the source of 64% of all service industry employment, according to the Small Business Administration – have been forced to navigate around rapidly-changing rules regarding dine-in service, building capacity, and other pressing concerns.
Through it all, small businesses have attempted to find some way, any way, to weather the storms.
While some amount of financial assistance has been there the entire time, it has been…inconsistent at best, and can often lead to greater confusion on behalf of the business owners who remain unsure where to turn.
And, worse yet, it had a nasty habit of running out.
Federal assistance programs for small businesses have been slowly rolled out since nearly the beginning of the pandemic, and for a time, small business owners were grateful for the help.
But as time went on and these programs were used to cover payroll and to meet the needs of a reduced number of customer purchases at the time, these assistance programs weren’t quite enough to keep many businesses open.
This brings us to today. It’s been over six months since the quarantine began in earnest, and a lot of businesses are still having a difficult time making ends meet. While not ideal, the solution many businesses are trying to turn to is small business loans.
Where, exactly, can you get a small business loan right now? Or, perhaps more to the point, where should you get a small business loan right now?
Where Should You Get Small Business Funding During COVID-19?
Your options for finding additional funding as a small business aren’t quite as widespread as they might have been back before COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the world of business, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely without choice. Every option for small business funding right now has a number of different advantages and disadvantages and finding the right one for your needs is going to require a bit of patience and research.
For better or for worse, crowdfunding has been an increasingly popular option for businesses and individuals to get the money they need in recent years. Families use it to help absorb the cost of medical bills, musicians and artists use it as a platform to fund their projects, and even small businesses have turned to it in a time of need.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to turn to platforms like GoFundMe or Fundible (a crowdfunding platform specifically designed for small businesses) and see if your customers are able at all to chip in and help you get through the lean times.
This approach is generally most successful for things like restaurants, bars, or certain local retail stores that have established a large community footprint and have a loyal customer base, but it’s an avenue worth considering for many businesses.
Local Financial Outlets
While many avenues for business funding have been closed off or greatly restricted lately, a lot of more community-focused financial institutions have begun opening up emergency business funding programs for locally-owned businesses that have exhausted their federal or state resources.
Generally, credit unions will be the first to offer these programs at a more local or geographically-focused level, as their focus tends to be on their immediate surroundings. Across the country, credit unions such as Affinity Plus and Consumers Credit Union offer COVID-19 related resources and assistance for applying, and certain credit unions like Trailhead Credit Union have contributed to community-focused lending programs.
Even above and beyond the more temporary programs, credit unions such as US Eagle continue to offer specific business loans depending on your unique circumstances. Check with your nearby credit union to see what they may be able to do.
State Relief Programs
Lastly, even if you’re no longer eligible for the larger federal programs, there may still be programs available for you at the state level that can dramatically increase the odds of your business staying afloat a little while longer.
States such as Michigan and Virginia, and even at the county level such as Orange County North Carolina, have been establishing small business relief programs that offer funds to the hardest-hit industries in their respective states.
While the terms for these may not be as generous or flexible as the larger federal programs were, you may still qualify for a number of these programs that could help you through the lean times.
Sadly, as the pandemic continues, we’ll have to continue being flexible about our businesses and our circumstances. But with these resources available for business owners all over America, it might not be such a long wait after all.
Tim Allen is a freelance writer who lives just outside Detroit with his cat Charlie. His writing experience extends from business planning and space design to home electronics reviews and musings on video games, and in his spare time he collects robot toys from Japan and spends too much money on guitar effects he’ll rarely use.