BID and Halcyon Extend Emergency Relief

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Closed businesses have left Georgetown a near ghost town. Georgetowner photo.

“Some 500 checks, made out for, on average, $300, are being sent to Georgetown employees who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis and need money to pay for rent, food, medical bills or other emergency costs because they have few other options,” announced Georgetown Business Improvement District CEO Joe Sternlieb at the May 4 meeting of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The funds came from the BID’s $150,000 Employee Emergency Relief Grant Program. 

That aid was just the first financial assistance arranged by the BID to help Georgetown employees in need due to the emergency shutdown of most businesses in the District following Mayor Muriel Bowser’s March 16 stay-at-home order. In mid-April, the BID established a partnership with Georgetown-based nonprofit Halcyon, initiating an ongoing donation campaign to further fund the Emergency Relief Grant Program.

At the end of April, the BID-Halcyon partnership launched a joint crowdfunding campaign for local recovery as part of #GivingTuesdayNow, “a new global day of giving and unity.” All gifts donated until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5, were to be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000. The funds are to be split evenly between the BID’s relief campaign for commercial district workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and Halcyon’s support for impact-based startups. 

The BID is also offering technical assistance to small business owners in Georgetown who are trying to apply to the second round of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program. As in the first round, loan applications for the second PPP round are to be administered by local banks — usually the one with which the business has an ongoing relationship. But there have been problems.

“Almost every bank in Georgetown participated,” Sternlieb told The Georgetowner in April. “But they were quickly overwhelmed with applications. While many BID members were very happy with the process, many others were not, as their loan applications ended up being stuck in bureaucracy. Now it is expected that the $250-billion extension of the federal SBA loan program approved by Congress to begin April 27 will consider pending applications that did not get through the process earlier.

“But in truth there are so many pending applications, it is expected the second round of funds will be quickly used up as well,” he said.

Because of problems in the first round, language in the second round has clarified that PPP funds should be loaned only to businesses with no more than a total of 50 employees, who lost their jobs due to the pandemic crisis. The loans will be forgiven if the business can document that they rehired the employees when the crisis was over.

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