Relief for small businesses

Small businesses can obtain loans through a new initiative from the city of Fort Wayne and Brightpoint.

The city of Fort Wayne and Brightpoint are teaming up to give small businesses a helping hand during the tough financial times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a news conference Aug. 5, city and Brightpoint officials announced their new initiative, the Small Business Emergency Relief Program, which could help companies out with up to a $20,000 cash infusion.

“There’s no question that small businesses are one of our largest employers,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry told the assembled crowd at Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St. “And we must do everything we can to help them thrive and survive.”

The funds are part of a $300,000 chunk of cash being invested from the city’s office of Housing and Neighborhood Services. The money originally comes from a $1.7 million allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The loans will be available to companies within the city limits that have fewer than 30 full-time employees. The amount of the credit goes up to $20,000, and the first year’s payments are forgivable.

Expenses that are eligible to be addressed by the capital include — but are not limited to — rent, utilities, physical changes that had to be made because of the pandemic, and licenses and application fees.

“Small businesses are a crucial piece of keeping our local economy healthy, and yet many of them are struggling to survive the economic hardships created by the pandemic,” Henry added. “Our priority is to support our local businesses so they, and our economy, come out on the other side of this crisis stronger than ever.”

The most recent government figures show that small businesses comprise a majority of firms in northeast Indiana. The 2018 U.S. Census indicates that of Allen County’s 9,269 businesses, 7,465, or more than 80%, employ fewer than 20 people.

“We feel it’s critical to support the small businesses in our community,” added Steve Hoffman, Brightpoint president and CEO. “They are providing products and services we all rely on, and are an important source of employment, as well. We are excited to partner with the city of Fort Wayne to expand on what we can do to help these businesses thrive and survive.”

The relief program will begin accepting phone calls Aug. 10. Businesses can call Brightpoint at 260-423-3546, ext. 601, or 1-800-589-3506, ext. 601.

The application period will be open for two weeks — from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24 — and assistance will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We begin taking calls on Monday,” Hoffman said, “So, we’re asking anyone who needs the help to reach out to us.

“We want to not only help small businesses survive this challenge, but come out on the other side thriving.”

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