Financial support programs launch for Kennett Borough and Kennett Township businesses
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Beginning May 27, businesses in the Kennett Borough and in Kennett Township can begin to apply for a loan and a grant through initiatives developed by Historic Kennett Square that are meant to provide financial assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
During the Kennett Economic Development Services Committee’s May 21 online meeting, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick introduced the Community Relief Fund (CRP), a program of the Borough of Kennett Square that will be administered by True Access Capital. This program was developed by the borough’s Revolving Loan Fund Committee and approved by Borough Council.
Through the CRP, a borough business can apply for a low-interest loan program up to $10,000, with no principal and interest payments due for the first 12 months.
After the first year, the business has the option of either paying off the loan amount or amortizing it out for an additional 3 years at 3 percent. There is no application fee or out-of-pocket expense for the business owner; however, there is a 4 percent origination fee that will be taken out of the loan proceeds.
There is no collateral required for the loan, although businesses will be required to sign on as a personal guarantee. The loan program will accept applications on a rolling basis.
Fetick said that the money to finance the loan program – about $500,000 – comes from what remains in a $1 million grant Kennett Square received nine years ago that it used for business revitalization, which was lent to various businesses.
“These finds are not borough tax dollars or operating funds,” Fetick said. “They came directly from the commonwealth, and given to the borough as a grant to be invested specifically in businesses and revitalization in the borough.”
In rolling out the details of the loan program, committee member Lorenzo Merino – and a financial loan advisor with True Access Capital – said that loans will be prioritized according to the following business matrixes:
* Those businesses that have been open for two or more years;
* Those businesses that have seen reduced sales by 30 percent or more during the pandemic;
* Those businesses that have seen reduced sales by 50 percent or more during the pandemic; and
* Those businesses that are 51 percent or more female or minority-owned or controlled.
Those businesses ineligible to apply for a loan include large national chain companies; home-based businesses; businesses that have opened in the borough after March 1, 2010; and gambling facilities and adult stores.
Under the loan application, businesses would be required to submit their most recent financial statements up until the end of 2019, corporate documents, personal financial statements and a summary of the business and how the business has been impacted by COVID-19.
Merino said that the loan can be used to help a borough business recover lost revenue during the COVID-19 shut-down period, pay for rent, reopen their business, make improvements to their business space and pay for necessary inventory related to operating during the pandemic.
The official roll-out for the loan program is expected to begin in the next week or so, and applications will be also be available in Spanish for Hispanic-owned businesses.
“These loans are meant to be less cumbersome than a traditional loan application and typical underwriting,” he said. “We’re hoping to get these moving a lot quicker than any normal traditional application.
“It’s difficult for a business to open up shop, and it takes capital to reopen, to rehire and restock, so I definitely think there is a need for help. The hope is that this money is going to be useful for those businesses, and hopefully, it will be used.”
$250,000 in matching funds from Square Roots Collective
Mike Bontrager the founder of Chatham Financial and the founder of the Kennett Square-based Square Roots Collective, introduced the Historic Kennett Square Small Business Response Fund, a collaborative effort that will provide businesses in the Kennett borough and Kennett Township with grants up to $10,000.
The financial wellspring of the grant fund will come from donations from the local community, as well as a commitment from Square Roots Collective to match up to $250,000 in the total amount of donations that come from the community.
Historic Kennett Square Economic Development Director Nate Echeverria gave an overview of the grant package, which will begin on May 27.
The grant applications will be reviewed, selected and distributed through a seven-member grant review committee of bilingual local stakeholders, and applications will be provided in both the English and Spanish languages. Grants will be available to consumer-facing retail small businesses, and eligible businesses will be able to apply for both the grant and the Historic Kennett Square Small Business Response Fund.
The grant program is only available for a certain segment of non-profits; particularly, those that operate similar to a consumer facing retail small business, such as a bookstore, café or music venue. Youth centers and food distribution services will not be eligible to receive a grant.
The application window for the grant will open on May 27, at which point businesses can apply for a grant and the community can begin making contributions. The first round of the application period will close June 12, and those businesses who receive a loan will be notified on June 22. Additional rounds will be introduced as funds become available.
Due to a variety of legal and tax requirements, individuals are not able to make a direct donation to a specific business of their choice as part of this program. However, they will be asked to specify their favorite local business when making a donation to the fund, which will be considered by the grant review committee when making final decisions.
In speaking about Square Roots Collective’s substantial matching offer, Bontrager said that it stems from the Collective’s belief that “any thriving community is really an ecosystem, where the health of one area affects the health of the others.” It’s in perfect step, he said, with the objectives of the Collective, which is centered around community development, social impact and environmental stewardship.
“The mission of the Collective is advancing the community of Kennett Square so that all residents can thrive,” he said. “We want to see a thriving community regardless of your background, your race, your socio-economic status or your faith.
“Clearly in this time of COVID-19 our financial ecosystem is under stress, and we’re asking, ‘How do we participate in helping to alleviate some of the pain of that stress?’”
Bontrager said that a key silver lining that he is seeing emerge from the COVID-19 crisis is that local residents are beginning to see how important for-profit businesses are to the lifeblood of small towns like Kennett Square.
“Too many people think in terms of non-profits as altruistic and for-profits as more self-centered,” he said. “What this crisis has demonstrated is that successful businesses are not simply good for tax base, but for the jobs, the vibrancy and the unique sense of place that makes Kennett and so many other small towns successful.
“By creating this fund where Square Roots will match donations, we’re hoping that it will encourage the generosity of our community to this segment of our economy.”
“What is so unique about this opportunity we have with the Square Roots Collective is the matching element, and the challenge of how can really engage with the community on the fundraising effort,” Echeverria said. “Having this challenge out there is such a great way to mobilize the community.”
Historic Kennett Square Executive Director Bo Wright said that the community will soon receive email information about how they can make their private contribution to the fund.
“The success of this program depends upon community support and their contributions – people from the community stepping up and saying they wish to donate to the small businesses in their community,” Wright said. “The best case we would love to see is to have people make a donation and then pass the information on to someone else.”
Historic Kennett Square Economic Development Committee member Bob Norris applauded Echeverria, Merino and Bontrager for their contributions to launch these two initiatives, as well as additional credit to borough council person Rosa Moore, local real estate agent and former borough council member Luis Tovar, Luke Zubrod of Square Roots Collective, and to borough manager Joe Scalise.
Norris said that the grant fund has already received 15,100 in donations, which when added to the match offered by Square Roots Collective, brought the fund total to $30,200 – just under a week before the fund has been made public. Immediately after the May 21 online meeting, Norris said that a local realtor called him, and despite the fact that the industry she is part of is suffering during the COVID-19 crisis, she and her husband made a $100 donation.
“She told me that she and her husband were nearly in tears after hearing about the program, and said, ‘We’re giving $100 because we think it’s the right thing to do,’” Norris said. “Another gentleman called and said he and his wife were touched by the effort and were going to donate their $1,200 stimulus checks to the program to help local businesses. It is neighbors helping neighbors, and these offers are a touching example of the spirit of the people of Kennett Square.”
Norris said that when combined, the loan and grant programs could accumulate as much as $1 million in support of Kennett area businesses.
“As we pull through the red and yellow phases and eventually into the green phase, the economic viability of our businesses will be critical for keeping people working and our town prospering, and it will allow us to maintain what a special place Kennett Square is to live, work and play,” he said.
Find out more.
For complete information on applying for the Community Relief Fund loan, email Lorenzo Merino at [email protected], or visit www.historickennettsquare.com/kennett-grant-and-loan-programs.
For complete information on applying for and contributing to the Historic Kennett Square Small Business Response Fund, email Nate Echeverria at [email protected], or visit www.kennettsbrf.com or www.historickennettsquare.com/kennett-grant-and-loan-programs.
Information on both programs is provided in Spanish.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].
courtesy of Historic Kennett Square