WASHINGTON, D.C. — The rapidly evolving response to coronavirus is having a major impact on American businesses and workers as many workplaces shut down, either out of necessity or an abundance of caution.
For southern Oregon in particular, the good news is that many small businesses were already eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
The Oregon congressional delegation has lobbied the SBA to support the state's request for a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration for all counties in Oregon, which would provide resources to businesses that face closures and lay-offs due to the coronavirus response.
Senator Merkley's office said on Thursday that Washington and areas of California had already received the declaration — making neighboring counties in Oregon eligible as well.
"Currently, Gilliam, Hood River, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla and Wasco counties are eligible to apply because of Washington’s declaration," Merkley's office said, "and Curry, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake counties are eligible because of California’s."
On Friday, lawmakers announced that the SBA had agreed to declare an economic disaster in Oregon, making all counties in the state eligible for loans.
“I have heard the fear and anxiety from small business owners throughout the state who have been impacted by COVID-19,” Merkley said. “In this unprecedented time, our small businesses — the lifeblood of our state economy — need all the help they can get. I encourage small business owners throughout the state to apply for these loans.”
Josephine County's Chamber of Commerce sent out a statement encouraging local businesses to apply for disaster loan assistance on the SBA's website.
“Small Businesses provide countless jobs across our state and play a critical role in the economy and community,” said Rep. Greg Walden. “During these challenging times, we must do all we can to support our small business.”
The Chamber of Medford & Jackson County says that it's launching a new campaign — S.O.S, or Southern Oregon Strong — to help employers and workers get access to resources during the coronavirus response.
“The Chamber is the catalyst for bringing people together and yet we know we have to do just the opposite. We are working overtime to navigate our way through the challenges presented to us,” said Brad Hicks, President & CEO of The Chamber of Medford and Jackson County. “We are meeting those challenges, head on, by reworking our programs to be delivered virtually and we are excited to announce (S.O.S.) Southern Oregon Strong!”
For more information on SBA loans or layoff aversion grants, see this document from Rogue Workforce partnership here.
NOTE: At the time of this article's publishing, the SBA website was extremely slow, likely due to the volume of traffic. However, it was still possible to get through and access information.