SHERIDAN — Gov. Mark Gordon applied on behalf of the state of Wyoming for access to Small Business Administration federal disaster loans in response to COVID-19 on an economic front. While the state awaits approval, small businesses throughout Wyoming can prepare to apply for a loan by setting up accounts online.

Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson said she had heard of one food truck closing business and anticipates more brick-and-mortar stores to do the same in the near future.

“The impacts are going to be substantial throughout the community,” Johnson said.

Johnson said while many businesses and community members are reaching out to the Chamber for information, it is difficult because she doesn’t have any answers. She referenced the quote, “You don’t know what you don’t know;” there is no playbook, no past experience or even historical means with which to help make decisions. Johnson and her staff remain committed to helping in any way they can through normal means of Chamber business — serving community members and guests with resources and finding answers to their questions to the best of their ability.

Businesses remain in the information gathering and decision-making stages of closures and working with employees on the economic and personal impacts. Johnson said in speaking with employers, working with and deciding the futures of employees is the most difficult at this point.

Some businesses have implemented best practices in working from home if possible, but some businesses cannot allow that — like government agencies that have special systems or classified information which can only be acquired through systems at the physical building.

Hopefully before that happens, though, businesses struggling with paying employees or recurring bills may turn to the SBA loans. SBA needs to first approve Wyoming as a legitimate state in need of those options.

Alex Contreras, director of preparedness, communication and coordination in the office of disaster assistance with the U.S. Small Business Administration, said his office is in contact with all 50 states in requesting a declaration for a need to be added to the list of states needing access to the funds available. Wyoming submitted a request this week and Contreras said those usually take around 24 hours to complete, as they are working to move things as quickly as possible.

In addition, small businesses wishing to apply for a loan through the SBA can apply online for fastest results.

Loans are available for up to $2 million and are meant to help with working capital needs, including but not limited to fixed debt and payroll — not to replace profit.

Loans run with a 3.75% interest rate for businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits for up to 30 years. Interest begins to accrue after funds are dispersed and there are automatic one-year deferred payments.

Applications online — disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Account/Login — remains the quickest way to apply and for them to process loan documents.

California, Washington, Maine and Connecticut received the first declarations, and New Mexico, Nevada, District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Utah and Montana received it in the second wave of requests.

Governors wishing to declare their state worthy of requesting those funds must identify at least three businesses in need.

While businesses remain in an unsteady economic situation, Johnson suggested community members consider business purchases carefully, adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines while also finding alternative ways to support local businesses.

Many businesses have offered alternative ways to purchase goods, like take-out options, and many food and beverage establishments have changed marketing to assure customers of cleanliness and adherence to CDC guidelines during this time.

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