Charles County Government Building

The Charles County Government Building in La Plata

Small businesses in Southern Maryland and across the state and country are eligible for stimulus money in order to retain employees as well as handle other essential business expenses during this economic downturn.

A part of the $2 trillion stimulus agreement set in place by Congress in March — $349 billion — will be to aid in businesses’ recovery that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

The stimulus money includes a Payment Protection Program for employees — the equivalent of eight weeks of payroll and other costs — as well as principal and interest being deferred for up to a year.

Additionally, the agreement will give funds to nonprofit organizations included in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. This money will carry a 3.75% interest rate for companies and a 2.75% interest rate for nonprofits as well as principal and interest deferment for up to four years.

Darréll Brown, director of the Charles County Economic Development Department, told the Maryland Independent the goal of the loan is to act as a revenue replacement program.

“We want to help small businesses cover their near-term operating expenses,” Brown said. “We also want to give a strong incentive for employers to retain their employees. We are trying to fill in the gaps.”

Brown said the whole Economic Development Department is teleworking in order to provide their services “as if it is normal.”

“It is important that the community knows we are fully integrated, we are fully up and running,” he said. “We are maintaining our services. The order of the day, however, is about saving lives.”

Brown said the Economic Development Department is adjusting its loan fund program in order to meet the needs of small businesses. The department was in front of the board of commissioners on Tuesday to discuss the implementation of modifications to the programs.

“We presented to them what our adjustments will be,” Brown said. “The board made some suggestions on what types of modifications they would like to see. The board [on Tuesday] created a relief fund.”

Brown told the Maryland Independent the relief fund will be a $200,000 stimulus and will be bifurcated with $100,000 for loans and the other $100,000 for grants to nonprofits.

“We are in unprecedented times. Governor [Larry] Hogan said that repeatedly. The Economic Development Department is being very careful in terms of the information we are sending to the business community at large,” he said. “We are here to help and do everything we can and the best we can to ensure they survive through this crisis. Everyone is working collaboratively.”

Marcia Keeth, deputy director for the Charles County Economic Development Department, told the Maryland Independent that there are a lot of good resources for small businesses right now.

“The state of Maryland has an excellent website that will help small businesses access these programs,” she said. “They will find what they are looking for.”

Keeth said there is no time frame in which she projects businesses — of any size — will be able to open their doors to the public again.

“Some of it depends on what happens in the next few weeks or months,” Keeth said. “No one is willing to guess, at this point, how long we are going to have to use caution and social distancing. It is too early to be able to determine.”

Keeth said there is a program that has not been launched yet that will be implemented “very soon.”

“The pandemic unemployment assistance program is for the self-employed. They will be available to receive unemployment benefits,” Keeth said. “There are several different programs. Some of the entrepreneurs that are trying to stay open can apply for the PPP.”

Keeth said that although this is a difficult time, non-essential businesses will be able to open again at some point.

The steps small businesses should take now can be found at www.uschamber.com/sbloans and more information can be found at www.sba.gov/coronavirus.

Twitter: @MDunlopSOMD

Twitter: @MDunlopSOMD