Gov. Ned Lamont, center, huddles with Paul Mounds, David Lehman and Josh Geballe before his briefing. mark Pazniokas / ctmirror.org
Gov. Ned Lamont, center, huddles with senior aides Paul Mounds, David Lehman and Josh Geballe before his briefing at the State Armory Wednesday. mark Pazniokas / ctmirror.org

Connecticut offered its first financial assistance Wednesday to the small businesses whose revenues have shrunk or disappeared as a result of the steps ordered by Gov. Ned Lamont to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease cased by the novel coronavirus.

The relatively modest $25 million loan program outlined by Lamont and his economic adviser, David Lehman, is intended as a quick source of cash to small businesses while the federal government works to distribute $350 billion in forgivable loans.

“The real focus here is on immediate liquidity and flexibility for our smallest businesses, because we realize how hard hit they are,” Lehman said.

The state is offering interest-free loans calculated to cover three months of expenses for applicants, capped at $75,000. The loans can run for as long as 18 months on the assumption that revenues will return by then, or repayments will be covered by the coming federal money. The loans are limited to businesses with no more than 100 employees. The money will come from revenue on repaid loans administered by the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

“We want to make sure that businesses have enough cash to meet their payroll, to meet their rent, to meet their insurance and other costs for this three-month period as we battle the virus,” Lehman said.

The Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program was rolled out as the U.S. Senate prepared to approve an unprecedented $2 trillion in relief to a nation whose economy is being crippled by keeping workers home and closing restaurants, shopping malls and many other businesses in an effort to slow COVID-19 .

David Lehman, commissioner of economic and community development. mark Pazniokas / ctmirror.org

“You get a little nervous, don’t you, when Congress in less than a week comes up with a bill which is about is $2 trillion in immediate relief — $2 trillion, by the way, is about half of the total federal budget of the United States of America,” Lamont said. “It’s about 10% of our overall economy.”

The $350 billion Payroll Protection Program will provide federally backed loans through local banks. The loans would not have to be repaid if the borrowers maintained their workforce. Larger companies that keep their workforce employed would be eligible for tax credits.

Lamont expressed relief at being able to promise the first measures of financial assistance that he says will begin to address the financial and emotional needs of workers and small-business owners rocked by the sudden loss of jobs and revenue as the nation hit the pause button on the economy. 

Those fears are registered in the daily calls to the United Way of Connecticut 2-1-1 hotline. Launched on March 7, it has fielded 8,035 calls.

“They’re terrified about where they’re going to be — folks who have lost all their income, folks who have lost a job, folks who have seen their restaurant shut down, worried about unemployment, worried about business support,” Lamont said.

“Our small businesses, a guy with a restaurant on Main Street in New Britain or a bar in Waterbury, they’re not looking for a tax credit. They’re not looking for a payroll tax deduction. They don’t have any income.”

Gov. Ned Lamont

Lamont said the state is offering immediate cash, albeit a limited amount. Information on how to apply is expected Thursday.

“Our small businesses, a guy with a restaurant on Main Street in New Britain or a bar in Waterbury, they’re not looking for a tax credit. They’re not looking for a payroll tax deduction. They don’t have any income,” he said.

The leader of the state’s largest business group, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the loan program is aimed in the right direction.

“Small businesses and their employees are bearing the brunt of this severe economic downturn,” said Joseph Brennan, the CBIA president. “Putting cash in their hands to pay their employees and their bills for several months will hopefully allow them to stay in business until the crisis is over.”

Andrew Markowski, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the loan program was an important recognition of the role small businesses play in the economy and their vulnerability during the pandemic-related restrictions.

“The bridge loans will help provide the money these businesses need now to pay the bills and keep employees on the payroll even when their doors may be temporarily closed. For some, this cash may mean the difference between getting through the next couple of tough weeks or shutting their doors for good,” Markowski said.

But quickly getting money to whose lives have been upended by an instant recession and unemployment — at least 100,000 jobs lost in a blink in Connecticut — is a challenge. The state Department of Labor has a three-week backlog in processing unemployment claims, up from just three days a few weeks ago. 

Connecticut reported an increase of more than 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day. The state now has 875 confirmed with the virus, including 113 who are hospitalized. Nineteen residents have died.

How to use the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Program

For further information on the Bridge Loan Program, contact DECD at (860) 500-2333 or via email at decdctrecovery@ct.gov. Email is recommended due to high volume on phone lines.

Eligibility

To be considered for this program, your business or nonprofit must:

  • Have no more than 100 employees
  • Be in good standing with the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) & DECD
  • Have been profitable prior to March 10, 2020— with no adverse personal credit reports 60 days past due the past six months
  • Not be involved in real estate, multi-level marketing, adult entertainment, cannabis or firearms; nor be a state elected public official or state employee

Terms & Conditions

  • Loan maximum of (a) $75,000 or (b) three months operating expenses, whichever is less
  • 0% interest rate
  • 12-month term, with 6-month extension available per request
  • Freely pre-payable
  • Working capital loan
  • Personal guarantee and credit score required

How to Apply

To apply for the Connecticut Recovery Bridge Loan Program, applicants must complete an application.

The following information will also be required:

  • Project Financing Plan & Budget
  • 2019 Income Statement (or) Profit and Loss Statement
  • Internal Financial Statements (YTD)
  • 3-month projected cash flow, demonstrating need
  • Summary of adverse economic impact resulting from COVID-19
  • Recent credit score report
  • Applicant Structure Documents
  • Personal Financial Statement
  • Ownership Breakdown
  • DRS Letter of Good Standing
Please visit our COVID-19 Resources Page for a complete listing of all CT Mirror coverage, Viewpoints, podcasts, and resources related to COVID-19.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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