UMSL hosts free webinar to aid small businesses with questions about applying for federal relief funds

by | Apr 13, 2020

Karl Guenther, director of UMSL's Anchor Institution Initiative, moderated the event, which featured a panel of experts from community partners and local lenders.
Small Business Workshop

Karl Guenther, director of UMSL’s Anchor Institution Initiative, moderated the event, which featured a panel of experts from community partners and local lenders.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed in March, is intended to bring crucial financial assistance to small businesses suffering from a crippling loss of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But small business owners need to know how to take advantage of the resources outlined in the legislation.

The University of Missouri–St. Louis and some of its community partners offered some guidance last Friday during a free webinar titled “Small Business Workshop: Applying for Federal Relief Funds.”

Nearly 350 people registered for the event, and it maintained an average viewership of 215 people throughout the hour-long session. An additional 300 people viewed the webinar over the weekend.

“I think this is a great example of how the University of Missouri System and the University of Missouri–St. Louis can leverage a lot of its connectivity and expertise,” said Karl Guenther, the director of UMSL’s Anchor Institution Initiative. “We have folks who are trained in working with small business who have been pouring over this legislation and understanding what needs to be shared with small businesses and how to get them connected with the right kinds of supports and resources.”

The online information session featured a panel of experts providing insight and guidance on how to apply for federal funds. UMSL partnered with MU ExtensionNorth County Inc.Beyond Housing, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and MOSourceLink.

Significant attention was paid to the Paycheck Protection Program established in the CARES Act with Brian Buster from St. John’s Bank and Elizabeth Wade from US Bank walking viewers through the loan application process.

Under the program, small businesses, nonprofits and religious institution with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for funds – for covering 2½ months of payroll, utilities or mortgage payments – that can be forgiven if they keep their workers on their payroll.

Kevin Wilson, the executive director of the Small Business Empowerment Center provided information about the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance program.

Erica Henderson, the executive director of the St. Louis Pomise Zone, also gave viewers information about resources available from the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, including a zero-interest loan program giving small businesses located in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County access to up to $5,000 in working capital.

Don Robertson from MU Extension’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center in Kirkwood talked about the resources his office provides businesses procuring government contracts.

“We are very much still in operation, and we’re ready and eager to get your calls, so we can continue to work with you in helping you to find bid opportunities,” he said. “There are a lot of resources out there for people who are still able to provide products and services to the federal government to help us during this crisis.”

Caitlin Jones discussed tools MOSourceLink has created to aid small businesses looking for sources of assistance during the pandemic, including a staffed hotline, web resources and a statewide events calendar to find additional virtual workshops and Q&A sessions.

Registrants to Friday’s webinar could submit questions in advance and could also do so in real time via a text chat.

“One of the key commitments UMSL has made in anchor efforts is to support the local economy,” Guenther said. “This was a great chance to work with local community organizations, other expertise in the UM system and some regional partners to try to put out concrete tangible resources to help our small businesses make it through this tough time.”

To view the full webinar, click here.

Guenther also shared the following resources:

MOSourceLink Hotline

Small Business Technical Assistance Center

St. Louis Economic Development Partnership

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