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Small businesses in Louisville get 'lifeline' from community loan fund program

The Small Business Continuity Loan Fund Program has already given out $471,110 in loans to 21 businesses.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For several weeks, the doors to Just Like Kandi Beauty Salon on 17th Street in West Louisville have remained closed after Governor Andy Beshear ordered salons and barbershops to shut down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"That is my main source of income and I'm totally shut off," owner and stylist Kenyatta Webster said. "There's just a lot of uncertainty."

About 20 minutes away from Webster's salon is a similar scene at Small Steps Childcare: locked doors, dark rooms and an empty parking lot.

"Staff are not sure when or if they'll have a job going forward," owner Kimberly Quire said.

Like thousands of other business owners in Louisville, Webster and Quire are feeling the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but a local loan is giving them hope for tomorrow.

The Small Business Continuity Loan Fund Program was launched last Monday to help provide zero-interest loans up to $25,000 with no payments for 12 months to small businesses with 10 or fewer employees that have been impacted by the coronavirus. The program is a joint effort between Metro Louisville government, Louisville Forward, Render Capital, Lenderfit, Greater Louisville Inc. and LHOME.

The loans are given through LHOME, a Louisville community development financial institution certified by the U.S. treasury. LHOME CEO and President Amy Shir said LHOME is an intentionally inclusive lender, prioritizing business that are owned by women and minorities.

"Redlining and the lack of access to affordable capital has hit our communities of color really hard over the last 50, 60 years, forever really," she said. "It's giving them a lifeline through the pandemic so that when the pandemic ebbs, they'll be open again and they won't have shuttered their business forever."

According to Shir, as of Thursday morning, the program has already given out $471,110 in loans to 21 businesses. Shir said after businesses are approved for the loans, they also receive assistance in applying for other funds through federal programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program, though those programs can often be more difficult to navigate and it can take weeks or months before the funds are transferred as opposed to the days that LHOME strives to reach.

"Expenses don't go away with a pandemic. The expenses continue but the revenue doesn't come in," Shir said. "We also know that rents are due now and people, before you have to lay them off, they need to be paid now."

Quire said she applied through the Paycheck Protection Program, but got nowhere. Webster has applied for at least 10 loans, and has also not received approval for the PPP.

"I'm not exactly sure why this has been difficult," Webster said.

Quire said she applied through LHOME on Monday, and received the funds Thursday morning. 

"If the other money hits, that's awesome too, but this money is here," she said. "This money's going to be a safety net when we're back up. It's going to make sure when we open back up that I can pay the rent. It's going to pay the utilities."

Quire and Webster both said the money is some assurance for their staff that they will be able to return to work once the order to close has been lifted.

"Some of the girls have not been paid their unemployment so they have no money right now," Quire said. "I'm also going to give them a bonus."

"I think of my employees as my family, so it's very important to me to be able to open my doors after this and us go back to normal so they are able to supply a life for their families as well," Webster said. "This loan is definitely giving the cushion and just the light at the end of the tunnel to let us know it might be okay, it should be okay."

The Small Business Continuity Loan Fund Program has already raised $1.2 million to lend to businesses. It is also seeking donations to meet a $500,000 matching grant.

The program is partnering with Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership and Moolathon to host "The Grind," which is a virtual 5K to help raise funds and encourage people to get outdoors while staying safe. People can sign up for "The Grind" here.

To apply for a loan or to donate to help small businesses, visit LHOME's website.

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