City Manager Fred Ramey said the Norton Strong loan program will give small businesses employing fewer than 50 workers the chance to apply for zero-interest loans up to $5,000 to help cover rent and utilities during the state COVID-19 emergency.
Ramey said the program came out of the city council’s passage of an emergency declaration Tuesday and will repurpose an existing USDA Rural Development grant to help fund loans for up to 30 city businesses hit by emergency restrictions and business loss during the pandemic.
The funds will be distributed through the city Industrial Development Authority to approved applicants, Ramey said. Repayment would begin after six months, and businesses can repay the loans in full or make monthly payments over a maximum 54-month period.
Eligibility for loans extends to brick-and-mortar businesses in the city that are current on all local taxes and have an active business license. Home-based businesses are not eligible.
Ramey said the loan program can provide a bridge for businesses until small business loans funded by the federal stimulus bill become available. At least 20 businesses had submitted loan applications by Friday, he added.
Norton Strong loan applications can be found online at the city’s website: www.nortonva.gov/nortonstrong
The council, in its emergency declaration, also set penalties and interest on delinquent real estate taxes and water and sewer bills.
The ordinance also sets provisions for electronic or remote meetings and delays in meetings in compliance with Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 51.