As the Cache County Council met via video conferencing on Tuesday evening, a full agenda was accompanied by an update about the county’s efforts for COVID-19 recovery.
Due to statewide social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines, Cache County Executive Craig Buttars said the impact on the county’s small businesses is big. Buttars said he has been working closely with officials of the Cache Chamber of Commerce and the Utah League of Cities & Towns on these efforts to navigate the economic impact.
“There are many things happening behind the scenes with economic development,” Buttars said. “One of those things is a ‘bridge loan’ which has been made available through the Gov. Herbert’s Office of Economic Development. This is to help them get through the next three weeks or so, until federal funding can kick in to help them keep their businesses viable.”
The Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan program uses about $8 million in repurposed state economic development funds to provide gap funding to Utah’s small businesses. Each business with a maximum of 50 employees could receive a loan up to $20,000. Buttars said these loans act as immediate help while businesses are waiting for federal funding to go through.
Within the program’s first five hours, more than 700 applications had already been received by the state.
“I hope we will be able to get this information out to as many people as we can,” Buttars said, noting that some cities in Southern Utah are working on putting together county- and city-funded loans. Buttars said that might be an option for Cache County as well if it is needed.
Buttars also discussed the option for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding down the road.
While the Bear River Health Department has declared an emergency and issued public health orders, Buttars said Cache County has not yet declared a state of emergency, meaning there are no current funds coming from FEMA.
Buttars said the time to apply for FEMA funding would be when the county needed reimbursement for emergency operations center responses, which have not incurred any expenses so far; if an alternative care facility or triage center was set up and needed funds, which is not currently a need; if the county needed to purchase protective equipment for health care workers and facilities; or if any other actions needed to be extended or enforced beyond what the state and health department had set up, such as expanding law enforcement’s abilities.
While Buttars said the county is not at that point yet, he said it is important to know what the plan is going forward.
He said there are ongoing conversations with property owners about the possibility of using the local hotels as quarantine sites for individuals who have tested positive. Buttars said this all depends on the rate of increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Cache County.
To find more information about the loans being offered through the GOED, visit business.utah.gov. Applications will be reviewed by state officials on a weekly basis.