Albemarle County is contributing $200,000 to a microloan program to help provide relief to small, local businesses impacted by COVID-19.
The county Board of Supervisors at its regular meeting on Wednesday approved transferring funds from the county’s Economic Development Fund to the Economic Development Authority for the program, which will be managed by the Community Investment Collaborative.
Albemarle Economic Development Director Roger Johnson said the pandemic has triggered a need for a strategic shift in his office, and this is part of a larger effort to help local businesses stay afloat.
“We are advising you that we think it’s in the best interest that we shift our focus to help small businesses maintain business continuity, in some respect, at the expense of future funding for site readiness,’’ he said.
Businesses may receive loans up to $10,000 or 100% of their prior year expenses, whichever is less. The loans do not require payment for six months, have a 1% interest rate and have a three-year repayment term.
Any business licensed in Albemarle or Charlottesville for both this and last year with demonstrated capacity to repay the loan and no significant credit issues is eligible to apply. The loan cannot be used to pay existing debt or to purchase equipment or real property.
Johnson said there have been gaps in the federal government’s response.
“While we do expect additional action at the federal level, there’s just a large lack of details and that the federal government is looking at this from a macro level,” he said. “… I believe that we need to take action locally to help our existing businesses.”
Charlottesville’s Economic Development Authority voted in March to make $350,000 available through grants and loans to local businesses, including $100,000 to this effort.
Johnson said the city funds will go to Charlottesville businesses, while the county funds will go to Albemarle businesses. He said the county provided some guidance to the CIC that it would like to see about 20% of these funds go to nonprofits, around 20% go to at risk or rural community services and then the rest can go towards any eligible businesses.
Other parts of the larger efforts to assist local businesses during the pandemic include a regional economic development initiative that will be announced in the future, educating businesses about resources and possible changes in the finance department deadlines, among other things.
The application process for the program has not yet opened.
Tax rates and deadlines
Albemarle’s real estate tax rate will remain unchanged for 2020. The board unanimously approved a real estate tax rate with no increase at 85.4 cents per $100 of assessed value.
Supervisor Donna Price said she has received emails from constituents about the real estate tax rate, including questions about whether the board will lower the rate. She pointed out that county staff said that each penny on the real estate tax rate equals about $2.1 million in revenue, which would be lost if the rate was lowered.
“But the other thing that we’ll have to look at as we move forward is the effect of the economic situation on real estate values, which if they decline, will on their own similarly result in reduction of revenues, and the reduction of revenues then affects the ability of the county to provide the essential services that we need,” she said.
The tax rates for personal property, certain personal property used in a trade or business and machinery and tools are to remain at $4.28 per $100 of assessed value.
The board also approved an emergency ordinance to extend a number of tax deadlines this year.
The deadline for filing a return on business tangible personal property and machinery and tools taxes is extended from May 1 to June 1. The deadline to pay the first installment of real estate, tangible personal property, machinery and tools and mobile home taxes is extended from June 5 to June 30. The deadline to pay business license taxes is extended from June 15 to June 30. The monthly deadlines for businesses to remit transient occupancy and food and beverage taxes collected for the months of March, April and May are now due and payable on July 20.
Business recovery and resiliency webinars
The Albemarle and Charlottesville economic development offices will be offering a free, three-part webinar series on business resiliency and recovery in acknowledgement of the impact COVID-19 is having on local businesses.
The first webinar will be on April 22 and is titled “Building Business Resiliency and Pivoting for Success.” The second webinar on April 29 will be about maximizing cash and strengthening finances during the pandemic. The final webinar will be on May 13 and will be about recovering from COVID-19.
All webinars are from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and are open to all area businesses, but pre-registration is required. After registration is received, participants will be sent a link for a Zoom meeting.
The webinars will be facilitated by David Deaton of Deaton Group, and there will be opportunities for attendees to engage with the speaker and other businesses in attendance.
To register, go to survey monkey.com/r/COVID-19 webinarseries.