city hall

The Belgrade City Council took action this week to establish a program for making loan funds available to local businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the state of Montana mandated the shutdown of non-essential businesses in March, city officials began talking about making some of its revolving loan fund money available to local companies to help them weather the crisis. When federal and state programs were established to provide loans to businesses through the PPP and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), the city postponed taking any action of its own until it appeared that federal and state assistance may be drying up. The deadline for the current round of PPP funding is Friday, Aug. 8.

“Federal and state help is going to go away,” City Manager Ted Barkley told the council at its meeting Monday. “A number of businesses will need help.”

On Barkley’s recommendation, the council voted to contract with the Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District (NRMEDD) to administer a COVID-19 Emergency and Business Stabilization (EBS) Program. Prior to the vote, NRMEDD Director Rob Gilmore told the council that $200,000 of the city’s revolving loan fund will be set aside to provide loans to local businesses, most of them in the range of $10,000 to $15,000. NRMEDD will assist business owners with a simple application, then submit loan packages and recommendations to a city committee for approval of EBS loans and loan terms.

The city will pay $15,000 to NRMEDD for one year for its services; the agency will receive no additional administrative or loan management fees. Barkley said NRMEDD has the infrastructure in place to efficiently administer the program for the city.

Barkley said businesses in Belgrade and its unincorporated planning area will be eligible to apply. He added it’s difficult to gauge what the demand for EBS loans will be, but officials expect there will be some.

NRMEDD surveyed local business owners in May. Fifty-five percent of them expressed concern about the future viability of their businesses after the crisis ends, and access to capital has been identified as a challenge many businesses will face.

Kristi Gee, CEO of the Belgrade Chamber of Commerce, said she has spoken with a few business owners whose sales have been soft this summer and are concerned about making it through the winter.

“Without knowing if there will be a rollout of federal funding, I think it’s a really great idea,” she said of the city plan.

The Northern Rocky Mountain Economic Development District is a private, nonprofit corporation that supports economic development in Park and Gallatin counties. For more information or assistance, contact the NRMEDD office at info@nrmedd.org or (406) 577-2541. The Belgrade Chamber, (406) 388-1616, also will offer assistance, Gee said.