Aiken small business owners take advantage of city’s COVID-19 relief loan packages


City of Aiken officials are doing what they can to help local small business owners during the COVID-19 outbreak. The council approved the COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Revolving Loan Fund during Monday’s council meeting.

The fund offers qualifying small business owners loans of up to $10,000 with a 2% interest rate, deferred for six months for payment and interest.

To qualify you must have a business license with the City of Aiken in good standing, have a physical location for your business and employ less than 25 full-time employees. Businesses must also be able to demonstrate a COVID-19-related impact to business operations incurred after March 1, 2020.

Loans under $5,000 will receive 12 month terms, loans above $5,000 will receive 24 month terms.

The city has partnered with Security Federal Bank, which is guaranteeing $250,000 of the initial $1 million funds. Half of the loans will be guaranteed by the City of Aiken, the remaining split between Aiken Corporation and Aiken Chamber of Commerce.

Applicants must meet credit-worthiness and underwriting requirements, and final lending decisions will be made solely by Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh or his designee(s).

“It’s just offering a lifeline to our small businesses that are taking it on the chin right now,” said Tim O’Briant, Economic Development Director for the City of Aiken.

O’Briant has temporarily set up shop at the Aiken Downtown Development Association office in The Alley. He and his staff were buzzing handling applications and scheduling appointments with interested small business owners. There was a large stack of applications by lunchtime on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after approval of the package.

The loans are not just for downtown businesses.

Rick Cram, owner of Progressive Show Jumping since 1987, was at the office on Tuesday to fill out an application. His business operates out of the Highfields Event Center.

“It was short and sweet,” he said, about the application process. “It’s easy, it’s quick.
It’s a signature loan at 2%. If you’re in dire need of paying your bills and keeping your power turned on and keeping your employees, those that are really dependent upon you, that have families of their own, this is a quick solution,” added Cram.

Lionel Smith Ltd., one of Aiken’s longest running small businesses is also among the applicants.

“The City of Aiken does not just include downtown,” said Van Smith, owner of Lionel Smith Ltd. “So they’re helping everybody in the City of Aiken. If you pay city taxes and your business license is up to date, then you are eligible,” said Smith.

O’Briant is asking applicants to use this link to set up an appointment, or you can call (803)-642-7654.

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