Jackson County small businesses can apply for a no-interest loan through the county to help weather the coronavirus pandemic.

After mulling options for about a month, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors allocated $50,000 from the county’s Revolving Loan Fund to provide loans to small businesses in need.

Dubbed the COVID-19 Emergency Small Business Loan Program, it is meant to provide emergency unsecured loans to qualifying local small businesses severely impacted by the public emergency who have exhausted other avenues of funding.

Business owners can apply for up to $5,000.

“I know this is not going to meet the (countywide) need, and there’ll be some issues,” Supervisor Jack Willey said, “but at least it’s a start.”

Supervisor Larry McDevitt agreed.

“I still feel $50,000 is a drop in the bucket. Is it really enough?” he asked.

Under terms of the county program, the business must:

 Be located in Jackson County

 Employ 1-25 people, including the owner

 Have a physical establishment, and

 Have been in operation at least two years.

Non-profit, franchise and chain businesses are not eligible.

The funds may be used for ongoing operating expenses such as payroll, utilities, lease or mortgage payments, etc.

Applications will be reviewed based on need.

Loan repayment will be deferred for the first six months with full payback required after three years.

Request an application by contacting the Jackson County Board of Supervisors, Maquoketa and Bellevue chambers of commerce, and the Jackson County Economic Alliance.

Applications are tentatively due June 15; that deadline will be on the form.

Owners must complete an application, which will be reviewed by a five-person committee appointed by the supervisors. The supervisors will decide whether to approve the applicants recommended by the committee.

The supervisors expect to announce loan recipients about two weeks after the application deadline, near the end of June.

Maquoketa banker Roger Stewart, the Jackson County Economic Alliance, and others brought the emergency loan idea to the supervisors more than a month ago. The program was designed as a way to assist local small businesses that may not qualify for state or federal assistance.

They said Dubuque County was implementing a similar program, lending approved applicants up to $10,000.

Wendy McCartt, Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce director, and Nic Hockenberry, of the JCEA, had spoken with a number of local small business owners who said that, because they employed only one or two people or were a sole proprietor, did not qualify for state or federal aid.

Chairman Mike Steines initially was reluctant to implement the program because he did not know if the county legally could use the Revolving Loan Fund for that purpose, he said.

The supervisors typically use the money as an incentive for businesses to move to Jackson County and for existing business to expand and hire more employees.

County attorney Sara Davenport drafted an amendment to the fund plan allowing the supervisors to use a portion of the fund when the president or governor declares a state of public emergency. Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a state of public emergency in March as COVID-19 cases started climbing across Iowa.

Steines also wanted to ensure that farmers were eligible for the emergency loan program. Many farmers have been hard hit by the pandemic as well, he noted.

McDevitt wants to ensure that applicants have exhausted other resources before applying for this county emergency loan program.

“If they fit into any other program, let’s get them there,” McDevitt said during a supervisors’ work session Friday.

The revolving loan fund balance is about $750,000, officials said.

Under the provisions of the amendment, the supervisors can allocate additional Revolving Loan Fund dollars if they deem it necessary.

For application info contact Jackson County Economic Alliance:

Call Nic Hockenberry at (563) 652-4549,

Jackson County Board of Supervisors: Call (563) 652-3181, address 201 W. Platt St., Maquoketa, Iowa 52060

Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce: Call Carrie Weaver at (563) 872-5830, address 210 N. Riverview St., P.O. Box 12, Bellevue, Iowa 52031