ST. PETER — More St. Peter businesses hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic will now qualify for the city’s emergency loan program, after the City Council expanded eligibility Monday.

The loans proved popular among the businesses initially eligible for them — bars, restaurants, fitness centers, retailers and several other sectors. At least 40 businesses applied for up to $10,000 in “micro loans” as of Monday, receiving $351,484 between them.

The Council’s modification Monday allows birthing centers and medical offices including dentists, chiropractors and psychiatrists to qualify as well.

The loan would be a huge help, said Erika Urban, owner of the River Valley Birth Center. She plans to apply for the city’s loan as soon as possible.

“We missed out on the first round of PPP (federal paycheck protection program) loans, which is incredibly important to make sure we’re able to maintain our payroll and staff,” she said. “The micro loan would come at a really significantly good time for us.”

Some area business owners have received the federal PPP funding, while others were frustrated at missing out and are looking ahead to the next round approved last week. States and certain cities have offered emergency loans of their own, such as St. Peter.

Although it didn’t initially qualify for the micro loan, Urban said city officials reached out to hear how COVID-19 is impacting her business. The birth center is still providing prenatal, childbirth and postpartum care, but other services like well-woman appointments had to be delayed.

The well-woman appointments, accounting for a large portion of business, commonly serve as annual exams where women receive care ranging from birth control prescriptions to breast exams.

Dental care and other medical offices have also significantly reduced operations due to the state ordering elective procedures to be stopped during the pandemic. An eye care center in St. Peter qualified as a retailer and received funding in the first round.

The Council approved the modification unanimously Monday after the Economic Development Authority recommended it last week. The city’s revolving loan fund still has adequate funding to cover the expansion, according to city documents.

Community Development Director Russ Wille said he knew of about eight businesses who would be eligible for the loans after the modification. Council members discussed how medical offices need to be licensed by the state in order to be eligible.

The initial loan recipients reported receiving their funding in as little as two days after they submitted their applications. Urban said she’d be grateful for the city’s assistance, praising its rapid response.

“One huge benefit of a smaller community is with the local government being smaller, they have the ability to be a lot more nimble and can react faster,” she said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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