QUINCY — As the COVID-19 virus continues to sicken thousands of Americans, Quincy's City Council is planning to throw a lifeline to small businesses in the city in hopes of negating the economic impacts of the pandemic that has killed more than 1,000 people in the U.S.
In a press conference on Friday, Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore announced the lifeline is expected to come in the form of a $500,000 relief package, which comes in the wake of Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's announcement earlier this month to bar restaurant and bar patrons from dining in at eateries and the state government's stay-at-home order. Included in the relief package are plans for a microloan program for Quincy's small businesses and the formation of a Adams County Community Task Force, which will help oversee the city and county governmental response to the economic impacts of the pandemic.
“We know it is not a lot of money, but we hope it is enough to make a difference,” said Moore. “We are going to be feeling the economic impact of this event for months — and years — to come. Right now, there are residents without jobs. There are families who are not sure where their next meal is going to come from. There are businesses who are doing everything they can to keep their doors open, churches are navigating how to stream their worship services, and local governments are going to be dealing with a cash flow issue for the remainder of the year.”
Moore said the economic strain of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely mirror the strain felt by local families following the historic flooding of Mississippi River in 1993.
“We have a lot of needs in this community,” Moore said.
Under the current proposal, individual businesses would be able to seek up to $10,000 in microloans. Receiving the loans would not prevent businesses from seeking additional loans and grants from the Small Business Administration and other state and federal government agencies.
The Quincy City Council is expected to approve the creation of the loan program and task force at Monday's meeting of the city council. If approved by the council, the two-page application for the microloan program would become available on the city's website on Tuesday, according to Quincy's Director of Planning and Development Chuck Bevelheimer.
Businesses would be eligible for the program if they meet certain criteria, including: must have been in business prior to January 1, 2020, must be located in the city limits, be a for-profit entity and privately owned, and the business cannot be a home-based business. The business must also employ between two and 50 employees and applicants must be able to demonstrate how the pandemic has adversely impacted their business.
In addition to providing recent tax documents, applicants must submit collateral sufficient to assure repayment of the loan.
City officials said the microloans can be used to pay employee wages and benefits, the purchase of business-related supplies, rent and mortgage for the business, utilities and insurance coverage. The microloans could not be used for employer wages and benefits, to recoup personal expenses of the employer, for the construction or remodeling of the business, and for debt incurred prior to March 9, 2020.
Bevelheimer said applications for the loans, which are funded from a decades-old federally-funded economic development program created in the wake of Motorola's closure, will be reviewed by the city's existing Central Business District Revolving Loan Fund Committee. No local taxpayer money paid to the city is being used to fund the microloans.
The microloans carry an 18-month term with a 1% interest rate, which is compounded monthly. Under the current proposal, while repayments of the microloans could begin immediately, the first payment would be delayed for six months from the loan's issuance.
Quincy Treasurer Linda Moore said once a business is approved by the committee, that loan can be distributed in a matter of a few business days.
“The goal of these loans is to help these small business be able to continue to pay their employees,” Moore said. “If they are able to continue to pay their employees, then that means those employees will be able to continue to buy groceries and pay rent, keeping money circulating in our community's economy. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. If we can support small businesses, then we are supporting our community as a whole.”
Bevelheimer said he believed using the economic development fund to support small businesses was being consistent with the program's original intent of creating and sustaining employment in Quincy.
“Small businesses generate a lot of jobs in Quincy. If now is not the time to use these funds then I don't when would be the time,” Bevelheimer said.
Quincy's mayor also acknowledged that there may be some who would be skeptical about the impact a $10,000 loan would have on businesses and the scope of the program considering there are more than 500 small businesses in Quincy, the vast majority of them being bars and restaurants.
“I know that $10,000 may be a lot of money to some and not to others,” Moore said. “We've had about two weeks now to see the impact this event is having on our bars and restaurants, and they certainly are being the hardest hit right now.”
He also said he would be open to working with the Quincy City Council to increase the funding cap beyond $500,000, given that the economic development fund would still have a balance of $1.2 million, if the demand for the microloans demonstrated there was a need for more money.
At Friday's press conference, Moore also introduced the individuals named to the Adams County Community Task Force, which includes: John Wood Community College President Michael Elbe, Quincy University President Emeritus Philip Conover, Adams County Board Vice Chairman Bret Austin, Great River Economic Development Foundation President Marcel Wagner, Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb, Quincy Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Latonya Brock, Adams County Emergency Management Director John Simon, and the Rev. Tim White of Trinity United Church of Christ in Quincy.