PATRICK WOODIE: Rapid Recovery Program provides support to N.C. businesses and farms during COVID-19 crisis

Posted August 26, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2020 6:33 a.m. EDT

Rural North Carolina

EDITOR'S NOTE: Patrick Woodie is president of the N.C. Rural Center, which works to improve the quality of life in the state’s rural places and among rural people.

As North Carolinians, we are no stranger to tough times. Throughout our state’s history, and certainly in recent years, we have faced hardships—including a series of recent hurricanes that have devastated communities. And while we don’t seek adversity, North Carolina has a long track record and the experience to work together, quickly, to find solutions that help our state move forward.

It’s no surprise that soon into 2020 — when faced with the new, unpredictable, and rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic — our state once again stepped up and addressed this new crisis head-on.

Three days before the CARES Act was signed into law in late March and with an initial $15 million commitment by the Golden LEAF Foundation, a coalition of nonprofits launched the N.C. COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program to support small-business owners and family farms needing immediate assistance during the sudden economic downturn of the pandemic. Since then, private and public entities have contributed, including the General Assembly’s appropriation in the spring, bringing this program to a more than $145 million commitment to North Carolina businesses.

As program administrator, the N.C. Rural Center has convened an historic partnership of organizations working together to support our state’s small businesses. Because of the flexibility, creativity, and ‘can-do’ attitude of our partners, the N.C. COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program has already delivered more than 1,000 loans statewide at more than $35 million. For context, this amount is five times more than the total number of disaster recovery loans made to businesses by the N.C. Rural Center for Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, and Dorian combined, within the space of a very few months.

The Rapid Recovery Loan Program is finding and serving businesses that may be at the margin of survival in these trying times but of importance to their communities—and may not have been served by other federal and state programs. Of the approved Rapid Recovery loans, 64 percent have been made to historically underutilized businesses (HUB), which are primarily women- and minority-owned businesses, two groups that been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, we’re proud to report that 75 percent of the Rapid Recovery Loans administered so far have been to companies with fewer than 10 employees.

We remain confident that this program is filling a key need in North Carolina — whether for HUB-designated businesses or those small businesses that simply need the support during this crisis to stay afloat and continue to pay employees.

However, we must keep working to support our state’s small business owners. As the pandemic persists into the fall — and unfortunately, likely beyond — we must be flexible and nimble to adapt to the needs of our state’s entrepreneurs.

The pandemic struck our state’s economy like a category five storm, and has persisted and intensified for nearly six months. Instead of planning for recovery, many businesses remain focused on how to weather the impacts as the crisis lingers beyond our initial expectations.

With this sobering reality in mind and based on feedback from early applicants and loan recipients, we have expanded our supports for new applicants and extended loan repayment terms to businesses and farms that are awarded loans. As we continue to accept applications for this program and conduct outreach throughout the state, we will also seek additional feedback on how this program can be further adapted to implement needed changes and best work for our state’s small businesses.

The N.C. COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program is but one example of our state’s ability to persevere and adapt during the toughest of times. When faced with an unprecedented disaster, our state’s nonprofit, business, and government leaders stood up and took immediate action to find solutions. The N.C. Rural Center remains committed to this important program and will continue to publicize opportunities and support for all qualifying businesses and farms across the state.

We know that small businesses are the backbone of our communities and our state’s economy, and we are dedicated to helping see them through this storm.

For more information on the N.C. COVID-19 Rapid Recovery program, visit ncrapidrecovery.org.

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