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Monroe County Sets Up Zero-Interest Loans to Help Small Businesses

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Until Monroe County fully is back in business, officials are working to make sure plenty of businesses remain to reopen.

County Executive Adam Bello recently announced a zero-interest loan program for businesses with between two and 50 full-time equivalents. The loans are for up to $10,000 and can be used for such business expenses as working capital or payroll. Repayment starts in January, and terms can be negotiated.

The Monroe County Industrial Development Corp. and the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency each have pledged $500,000, for a total pool of $1 million for the loans.
For more, go to www2.monroecounty.gov/economic2-index.php.

The local funding is needed since two federal programs under the CARES Act – the Paycheck Protection Program and the Emergency Incident Disaster Loan Program – have dried up.
Monroe County is expecting money from a third federal program, administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county usually gets about $1.8 million, and is expecting another $1 million that can be used for its loan program. However, that won’t start until at least May.

The county also has set up a job board for employers in essential businesses and people looking for work.

As of April 17, only 239 people had uploaded resumes to the site. The county did not have information about the number of job applications.

The relatively low number of users may reflect the lack of reliable access to computers and the internet for many job seekers, said Ana Liss, acting director for the county department of Planning and Development.

RochesterWorks and the state Department of Labor workforce centers as well as libraries have been closed, meaning people can’t get to computers.

Liss said people with internet access may be using Indeed, LinkedIn or other online job boards. For more on the county’s portal, go to: jobboard.rochesterworks.org/.

As for when and how to reopen, Bello said it has to be done in phases with an eye to the number of new cases that occur at the same time.

“I don’t think Monroe County is out of the woods in terms of the spread of COVID-19,” he said on April 17.

He said social distancing has slowed the growth of cases. The county has not seen a dramatic increase in cases – the so-called spike.

As of April 20, there were 94 people hospitalized and of those, 28 people were on ventilators. Since April 11, the number of hospitalizations ranged from 90 to 97 and number of people needing ventilators has ranged from 30 to 38. The county has 1,016 confirmed cases.

Only about 9,000 people in the county have been tested. Of the confirmed positive cases, 465 individuals have recovered from isolation. Of confirmed positive and known presumed positive cases, 615 have recovered from isolation.

As of April 20, the county has reported 81 deaths.

Bello said that if a community opens too soon, it risks seeing cases soar. “We are a prime location to have a very dramatic second spike because we just haven’t had that infection rate that we’ve seen in other cities. Bu the virus still is here and we do have community spread.”

Bello acknowledged that a phased reopening could seem unfair.

“Mistakes will be made and there are judgment calls that are going to be made in relation to what should open and how you do it,” Bello said. “We should listen to the public health professionals and that they think the safe way is. The one thing I’m most concerned about is overwhelming the health care systems.”