COVID-19 Resource & Action Center for Local Businesses


 

Table of contents:

What loans and grants are available to help my business?
What resources are available to help my business?
Where should I look for current regulatory updates?
What resources are available to help ensure my loan is forgiven?
What support is available to my employees?
What is Lowcountry Local First doing to support us?
View our schedule of webinars to keep you informed and connected.
Additional resources.
Read, watch and listen about LLF in the news.


What loans and grants are available to help my business? 

American Rescue Plan:

The American Rescue Plan was signed into law on March 11, including funds dedicated to a new SBA grant program for food and beverage small businesses. The Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) has been advocating at the federal level for stronger support for your industry and is looking to us now to help spread the word on how you may benefit from these grants. **NOTE: Unlike loans, grants are non-repayable.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that eligible eating establishments have until Monday, May 24, 8 p.m. ET, to submit applications to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Don’t miss the deadline: apply now. So far, more than $69 billion has been requested by over 303,000 applicants, far exceeding the $28.6 billion Congress allotted for the program. The Independent Restaurant Coalition continues to advocate for more funding.

PPP Funding Updates:

•  NEW: As of early May 2021, the PPP funding had been exhausted. Learn more.
PAST INFORMATION:
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 includes $285 billion of additional assistance for small businesses through reopening the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). View eligibility, forgiveness and more details for First Draw businesses and Second Draw businesses as provided by the SBA. It is recommended that small businesses interested in applying begin by inquiring with their own financial institution to find out if they will be participating as a lender. Locally, First Reliance Bank is a participating lender and ready to assist local businesses. CommunityWorks, a CDFI in Greenville, SC, is also taking applications. All who are eligible can apply for a first time PPP loan. However, at this time CommunityWorks is only accepting 2nd draw applications from clients who obtained their PPP loan from CommunityWorks in 2020.
• Initially, only CDFIs were processing PPP loan requests. On January 15, applications became accessible to more community banks and credit unions. As of Tuesday, January 19, SBA re-opened the PPP loan portal to all PPP-eligible lenders with $1 billion or less in assets for First and Second Draw applications.
First Draw Borrower Application (for those businesses who have not already received a PPP loan)
Second Draw Borrower Application (for those businesses who did already receive a PPP loan)
Tidelands CPA group (Mount Pleasant) has provided helpful that assist in determining your eligibility and forgiveness for round 2 of PPP funds: Calculate Qualification // Calculate Forgiveness
The SBA has added a new frequently asked questions which includes information about the application process, eligibility and program criteria.
• The SBA has also put together a matrix that compares the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) and the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) eligibility. This matrix is designed to help you decide what is best for your small business.
• Have questions? You can find local application assistance through the Charleston LDC. Contact Charlie O’Brien, Charlie@charlestonldc.org or 843-654-1286.

Other Loan and Grant Opportunities:
• The Southern Opportunity and Resilience Fund (SOAR) provides loans of up to $100k to small businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer full-time employees. Learn more and sign up to be notified when the fund opens. SOAR is a collaborative partnership of local and national community finance organizations created to address the needs of historically disenfranchised communities as they navigate and rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis. SOAR includes leaders from across sectors including local community lenders, national and state-based nonprofit organizations, corporations, philanthropic donors, and investors – all who are passionate about an equitable recovery across the region.
• The Small Business Majority has compiled a list of COVID-19 loan and grant opportunities for small businesses by state. See the SC list here.
• Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are now available to businesses affected by civil unrest from May 28 through June 30, 2020. Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) loans are also still available for revenue loss due to Covid. EIDL are not forgivable, but have low-interest rates (3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for non-profits), maturity of up to 30 years and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. Learn more and apply through the SBA.
• On June 5, the PPP Flexibility Act was passed to ease restrictions on small businesses receiving PPP loans. Read more here. Modifications include:
– Increase the loan forgiveness period from 8 to 24 weeks
– Reduce the proceeds required for payroll from 75 to 60%
– Increase the loan repayment period from 2 to 5 years
– Allow payroll tax deferral for PPP recipients
– Extend the June 30 rehiring deadline

PREVIOUS PPP LOAN INFO:

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a 14-day exclusive window starting February 24th where only businesses/non-profits with fewer than 20 employees can apply for PPP. They’ve also changed some of the criteria to open up to more people, effective the first week of March. Learn more.

Need capital to cover the cost of retaining employees? The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) might be right for you. This 4-min video (shared above) is a great place to start. Download the application here and be prepared to submit no later than August 8, 2020. Payments come through financial institutions so be sure your bank or credit union is an approved SBA lender. You can only submit one application, so do not submit to multiple financial institutions as that will only bog down the system. Review this helpful PPP fact sheet.
• Need a quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now? You might want to look into an Emergency Economic Injury Grant. If you have already submitted for an EIDL loan, you must reapply to get the $10,000 grant portion.
• Concerned about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan? The Small Business Debt Relief Program could help.
• Looking for free counseling to help you navigate this uncertain economic time? These resource partners might be your best bet.
Información sobre préstamos para pequeñas empresas via SBA.

• Local Farms: The American Farmland Trust has opened applications for their Farmer Relief Fund which will award farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis. Learn more here.
• View the Farmers’ Legal Action Group’s guide to COVID-19 relief.


 What resources are available to help my business?

• Browse our Local Supply Hub for personal protective equipment (PPE)
• Download, print and display a poster in your storefront to help instill confidence in your customers that you’re operating in a safe manner. Download 8.5×11″ // Download 11×17″. If you’re a current member of the organization, we’ll bring an 11×17″ version to you. Just ask us!
• The City of Charleston offers local restaurants opportunities for adding outdoor dining through a streamlined approval process. This process removes fees, requirements, and many approval steps while still protecting livability and safety. This registration allows for temporary use of additional areas for outdoor dining on private property and public sidewalks. Please click here for an overview of the requirements, terms, and conditions of this use. Complete this form to apply.

• HR Tip: Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A. recently shared that on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, Governor McMaster signed into law the COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act. The law provides liability protection against claims that a person contracted COVID-19 from your business provided that the business reasonably adheres to applicable public health guidance at that time. Learn more.
• Workforce Training Funds
are available through SC Works Trident. These funds can help to cover the costs of training needed to retain a competitive workforce. More details and the application can be found online. Applications are due May 14.
• Paid leave credit: Immediate tax credits are available through most of 2021 to businesses that offer their employees paid sick and family leave due to COVID including for illness, quarantine, getting tested or vaccinated, or caregiving. You could see these credits in your bottom line as soon as your next quarterly filing. Learn more.
HR Tip:
In a recent webinar, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd’s Employment Law Team discussed what employers can expect from the Biden Administration and South Carolina legislative session. Click here to view the recording. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and updates affecting employers, subscribe to HSB’s blog at SCEmployersBlog.com.  
HR Tip:
Nexsen Pruet provided on Feb 17, 2021: On Jan. 29, 2021, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued new guidance on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance, titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace,” is intended to help employers identify workplace risks of exposure and/or infection and determine appropriate control measures “in most workplace settings outside of healthcare.”  
HR tip:
Should Employers implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies?“, a blog shared by Haynesworth, Sinkler & Boyd (Dec 10, 2020)
HR tip: Nexsen Pruet shares guidance on what’s legal for Covid testing and screening in the workplace (Oct 28, 2020).
HR tip: SC DHEC released new guidelines on June 29, 2020 to assist employers in addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers are advised to review and implement the guidance into their current policies and procedures. Following DHEC guidance (along with OSHA and CDC guidance) is the best way employers can avoid liability concerns with respect to operating in a COVID-19 environment. (Via the SC Employers’ Blog by Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd PA)

Retail tip: The National Retail Federation’s “Operation Open Doors” provides resources and a checklist to help retail establishments operate safely.
Retail tip: CORE Architecture hosted this informative webinar with insights and adaptation recommendations for retail (recorded May 20, 2020)

F&B tip: FAB Charleston + Core Architecture hosted an informative webinar (recorded Apr 30) and slides with detailed, tactical information aimed at helping independent restaurants work towards reopening safely.
F&B tip: Restaurant Reopening Checklist (as shared by member business Berlin’s Restaurant Supply)
F&B tip: Bentobox offers free webinars on how to improve the technology in your restaurant to provide seamless (and touchless) service
F&B tip: James Beard Foundation’s industry webinars for restaurants looking to reopen
F&B tip: Use Oyster Social’s free “Critical Path to Reopening” spreadsheets and resources for restaurants and bars – covering finance, to operations to marketing


 

Where should I look for current regulatory updates?

Here’s City of Charleston Covid Updates:
https://www.charleston-sc.gov/2408/City-of-Charleston-Coronavirus-Updates

SC Commerce Updates:
https://sccommerce.com/covid-19-resources

Executive Orders – Gov McMaster:
https://governor.sc.gov/executive-branch/executive-orders

Accelerate SC
https://accelerate.sc.gov/

Charleston County Economic Development Resource Hub
https://www.charlestoncountydevelopment.org/for-existing-business/covid-19-response/

SC Employers’ Blog – an employment law blog for employers
https://www.scemployersblog.com/

CDC for Workplaces and Businesses
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/workplaces-businesses/index.html


 

What loans and grants are available to help my business? 

• The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 recently passed and includes $285 billion aimed at providing additional assistance to the hardest-hit small businesses through reopening the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This helpful article by the Wall Street Journal, posted Dec 22, 2020, shares details on who can apply, maximum loan amounts, forgiveness requirements, expected timelines and more. Read it in full on our blog. It is recommended that small businesses interested in applying begin by inquiring with their own financial institution to find out if they will be participating as a lender. Locally, First Reliance Bank and South State Bank have both confirmed as participating as lenders. Community Works, a CDFI in Greenville, SC, is also taking applications.
Have questions? You can find local application assistance through the Charleston LDC. Contact Charlie O’Brien, Charlie@charlestonldc.org or 843-654-1286.
• PPP:
Link to Round 1 Borrower Application (“First Draw,” for those businesses who have not already received a PPP loan)
• PPP: Link to Round 2 Borrower Application (“Second Draw,” for those businesses who did already receive a PPP loan)
Tidelands CPA group (local to Mount Pleasant) has helpful calculators on their website to assist in determining your eligibility and forgiveness for round 2 of PPP funds: Calculate Qualification // Calculate Forgiveness
• The Small Business Majority has compiled a list of COVID-19 loan and grant opportunities for small businesses by state. See the SC list here.
• Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are now available to businesses affected by civil unrest from May 28 through June 30, 2020.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) loans are also still available for revenue loss due to Covid. EIDL are not forgivable, but have low-interest rates (3.75% for businesses and 2.75% for non-profits), maturity of up to 30 years and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. Learn more and apply through the SBA.
• On June 5, the PPP Flexibility Act was passed to ease restrictions on small businesses receiving PPP loans. Read more here. Modifications include:
– Increase the loan forgiveness period from 8 to 24 weeks
– Reduce the proceeds required for payroll from 75 to 60%
– Increase the loan repayment period from 2 to 5 years
– Allow payroll tax deferral for PPP recipients
– Extend the June 30 rehiring deadline
• PREVIOUS PPP LOAN INFO: Need capital to cover the cost of retaining employees? The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) might be right for you. This 4-min video (shared above) is a great place to start. Download the application here and be prepared to submit no later than August 8, 2020. Payments come through financial institutions so be sure your bank or credit union is an approved SBA lender. You can only submit one application, so do not submit to multiple financial institutions as that will only bog down the system. Review this helpful PPP fact sheet.
• Need a quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now? You might want to look into an Emergency Economic Injury Grant. If you have already submitted for an EIDL loan, you must reapply to get the $10,000 grant portion.
• Concerned about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan? The Small Business Debt Relief Program could help.
• Looking for free counseling to help you navigate this uncertain economic time? These resource partners might be your best bet.
Información sobre préstamos para pequeñas empresas via SBA.

• Local Farms: The American Farmland Trust has opened applications for their Farmer Relief Fund which will award farmers with cash grants of up to $1,000 each to help them weather the current storm of market disruptions caused by the coronavirus crisis. Learn more here.
• View the Farmers’ Legal Action Group’s guide to COVID-19 relief.


What resources are available to help ensure my loan is forgiven?

EZ Forgiveness Application Update: The Small Business Administration (SBA) has released a streamlined form for applying for forgiveness with your Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lender. You are eligible to fill out the EZ Forgiveness Application if you meet one of the following requirements:

• You are self-employed and have no employees;
• You did not reduce the salaries or wages of your employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of your employees;
• You experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID-19 and did not reduce the salaries or wages of your employees by more than 25%.

Note: Businesses that don’t meet one of these requirements will still need to complete the Full Forgiveness Application

The SBA has also updated its PPP guidance to reflect changes enacted by the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act. Businesses now can use PPP funds over a 24-week period, and the covered period for the loan was extended until Dec. 31, 2020. The updated guidance can be found here.


What support is available for my employees? 

• Employers can file a claim for any employees being laid off, stating that you had to lay them off. This allows the employee to collect benefits for 6 weeks without being required to look for another job. Learn more.
• The Charleston County Public Library has organized this list of foundations offering grant assistance to restaurant workers as well as gig, and low-earning contract workers.
• The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 but can recoup the cost. Learn more. This additional document is helpful.
• Unemployment benefits have been increased. An employee may receive up to $926/week or roughly $23/hour (combining state and federal weekly benefit) for up to 16 weeks, and is not required to search for another job.
• FAQs on Covid-19 and Unemployment Insurance Benefits – SC Dept of Employment and Workforce
• SC Dept of Employment and Workforce COVID-19 Resource Hub
• SC DEW’s unemployment application page for self-employed / gig workers


 

What Lowcountry Local First is doing to support you now: 

• Download, print and display a poster in your business front window / entryway to help instill confidence in your customers that you’re operating in a safe manner. Download 8.5×11″ // Download 11×17″. If you’re a current member of the organization, we’ll bring an 11×17″ version to you. Just ask us!

• Browse our Local Supply Hub for personal protective equipment (PPE)

Adopt a Local Restaurant and pledge weekly support of your favorite food and beverage business(es).

Pledge to support your local-independent businesses.

Download and use these social graphics to update your customers on your adjusted offerings.

• Charleston Legal Access has partnered with law firms Nelson Mullins and Jackson Lewis, Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), and Lowcountry Local First to launch a remote legal clinic to help small businesses and nonprofits in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Hampton, Jasper counties weather the economic impact of COVID-19. Qualifying small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and nonprofit organizations can submit their legal question using this online screening form. Pro bono lawyers with expertise in that particular subject matter will then be matched with a small business to offer a free 45-minute virtual or telephone legal consultation, helping small business owners and nonprofits navigate the CARES Act, or questions related to employment, contract enforcement, commercial leases, insurance and insolvency.

Webinars:

View Past Webinar Recordings:

Crisis Communications, recorded Mar 20. View video and slides.
Navigating Business Relief Options with the SBA, recorded Mar 24. View video and slides.
It’s On My Mind: Marketing & Management Tasks During Coronavirus & Social Distancing, recorded Mar 25. View video. View slides.
How to Launch a Digital Marketing Campaign in 3 Easy Steps, recorded Mar 31. View video and slides.
Cooking Live & Local with Lauren, recorded Apr 1. View video and recipe (coming soon).
An Employer’s Guide to Emergency Leave & Unemployment, recorded Apr 2. View video and slides.
Demystifying the CARES Act: What’s in it for local businesses?, recorded Apr 6. View video and slides.
Part II, Navigating Business Relief Options with SBA, recorded Apr 8. View video and slides.
Navegando Las Opciones de Ayuda Empresarial con el LDC, recorded Apr 17. View video and slides.
Crafting Crisis-Proof Business Contracts, recorded Apr 21. View video and slides.
• LLL y HBA presenta: Manejo del estrés en crisis es clave para el éxito empresarial, recorded April 28. View video and slides.
Conversation with Congress for the Local Business Community, recorded May 18. View video.
How to Package and Ship Products like a Pro, recorded May 27. View video.
• Actions Cities Can Take to Support Local Businesses, recorded Sept 9. View video.


 

Additional resources & ways to help: 

• MUSC Health has a list of ways you can offer food donations to their employees being impacted by the crisis.
• Donate to the Food Bank’s matched Fueled by Fresh campaign.
• Sam Adams is offering $1,000 grants to restaurant workers impacted by COVID-19. Learn more.
• Facebook has launched a $100 million grant program for small businesses affected by the virus.
FOX 24 News is pledging to give half a million dollars in free commercial air-time to locally owned & operated businesses.If your business is being negatively affected by this crisis, email them at Fox24Cares@foxcharleston.com.
View SC Department of Commerce resource center.
View SC employment law resources.
• The City of Charleston has suspended their single use plastic ordinance for 60 days as of Friday, March 20.
• The City of Charleston has implemented temporary curbside parking relief zones to provide support for local businesses that are fulfilling curbside pickup and delivery orders in lieu of dine-in service. These spaces are free for use by restaurant employees, delivery drivers and curbside pickup patrons. See locations here. Submit feedback or requests to curbside@charleston-sc.gov.
• Gotcha is offering electric scooters to local restaurants and retailers to aid in local deliveries.


 

LLF in the news:

Commentary: Will we have the guts to do things differently?, in the Post and Courier, May 14, 2020
One Region Releases Strategy and Guidelines to Safely Reopen Tri-county Area , in The Daniel Island News, May 11, 2020
• Lowcountry Local First Advocates A New Normal For Charleston’s Economic Future, in The Chronicle, May 10, 2020
Helping Out for April 22, 2020, in Charleston Regional Business Journal, April 22, 2020
How you can “adopt” a Charleston restaurant during crisis, in Charleston Currents, April 20, 2020
Help a Charleston eatery and their employees by ‘Adopting’ a local restaurant, in Charleston City Paper, April 18, 2020
How to support local restaurants and out of work staff in CHS Today, April 17, 2020
As independents face grim future, Charleston nonprofit asks diners to ‘Adopt a Restaurant’ in The Post & Courier, April 17, 2020
Lowcountry Local First offering online “Local Social” and other resources for Charleston businesses affected by COVID-19, in Charleston City Paper, April 8, 2020
GOOD NEWS: It’s really time to lift a glass or two in Charleston Currents, April 6, 2020
Coping with COVID: Lowcountry Local First in Charleston Regional Business Journal, March 30, 2020
Lowcountry Local First put together a huge list of local businesses you can support right now. in CHS Today, March 26, 2020
Charleston defers proposal that would float local small business loans, citing “fluid” situation with coronavirus recovery, in Charleston City Paper, March 26, 2020
SBA economic disaster loan webinar a hot ticket in SC, in The Post & Courier, March 25, 2020
Richard Todd talks with Jamee Haley on the Bridge 105.5, on 105.5 The Bridge, March 20, 2020
Restaurants, business owners searching for solutions after Governor’s order to limit customers, in Count on 2 News, March 18, 2020
Commentary: You can help keep our community afloat during the COVID-19 crisis, in The Post & Courier, March 17, 2020
Haley: How Charleston leaders, businesses, and residents can support the local community through the coronavirus crisis, in Charleston City Paper, March 16, 2020


 

Our Policy Recommendations: 
(Posted Mar 17, 2020)

What we’re advocating for with our local officials:

• Expedite permitting for small businesses who are overwhelmed by regulations, arbitrary design requirements and multiple government agency hurdles
• Provide FREE parking downtown for employees and patrons
• Create an emergency leave and income assistance fund to support those who lose income in circumstances directly or indirectly related to the spread of the coronavirus to compliment the Families First Relief Bill.  *This is currently in the works with the City of Charleston and will be voted on Tuesday, March 24th. We are working with the City and LDC Charleston to engage the business community. Other municipalities are being encouraged to offer similar support.
• Provide grants to support small businesses that will allow them to keep on employees.
• Waive impact fees.
• Let farmers’ markets stay open. They should be treated like grocery stores. Our growers, fishers and purveyors need us now more than ever.

What we’re advocating for with our state officials:

• Suspend all tax payments (sales, beer, wine, income etc.) for the duration of the recession starting with April 1 payments. *Current policy has this starting in April.
• Expedite payments to hourly employees who are laid off due to closures, COVID-19 related illness (themselves or caring for others) or lack of business.

What we’re advocating for with our federal officials:• Grants to support local businesses, particularly the food and beverage industry that we rely so heavily upon and who are getting hit the hardest.

• Suspend all income tax payments for the duration of the recession.
• Provide 0% interest loans to small businesses.