• Rob Glover

Gaston County Business Resources during COVID-19

Editor's Note: The Gaston Business Task Force website is updated daily. Please visit the website for the most up to date information.

Gaston County has a long history of battling adversity head-on. As before, we will navigate this unprecedented crisis together.

In response to the rapidly developing economic challenges Gaston County residents and small businesses will face, several local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations have teamed up to create the Gaston Business Task Force.

Making good decisions is difficult in a time of such uncertainty, so the Task Force is coordinating with local, state, and federal partners to provide up-to-date, relevant support and essential information.

Here you’ll find resources for businesses and residents, as well as a list of ways you can help support your favorite shops, restaurants, and service providers.

Loan and Financial Support

Small businesses are a powerful economic engine in Gaston County. Keeping those businesses, and their employees, going through this crisis is critical so they can hit the ground running once we’re on the other side.

Here are several federal, state, and local programs available immediately for small businesses.

Federal programs

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act provides funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), modifications to the existing Emergency Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, Express Bridge Loans, and provides automatic SBA debt relief for 7(a), 504, and microloan borrowers.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

Provides low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. Small business owners in North Carolina are currently eligible to apply.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

Serves as an extension of the SBA’s 7(a) loan program, which will allow financial institutions to provide federally backed, forgivable loans to eligible small businesses. It is designed to provide a direct incentive to keep workers on payroll. Funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Starting April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply. Starting April 10, 2020, independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply. Businesses are encouraged to apply as quickly as possible because there is a funding cap.

Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program

Authorizes SBA Express Lenders to provide expedited SBA-guaranteed bridge loan financing on an emergency basis in amounts up to $25,000 for disaster-related purposes to small businesses nationwide adversely impacted by COVID-19.

SBA Debt Relief Program

Automatically pays the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a), 504, and microloans for a period of six months, and also automatically pays the principal, interest, and fees of new 7(a), 504, and microloans issued prior to September 27, 2020.

Local Loan Programs

While federal economic disaster relief efforts are underway, immediate help is needed to keep local small businesses from failing. In response, various Gaston County cities have adopted emergency loan programs to help their respective small businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis.

The City of Belmont

Offers small business emergency loans to locally owned, non-franchise businesses located within the Belmont corporate limits as part of the City’s “Keep the Lights on in Belmont” program. Loans to eligible small businesses will be awarded in amounts up to $10,000 to help cover operating expenses until state or federal assistance is available or until the economic crisis passes.

The City of Mount Holly

This loan program provides emergency, short-term loans to small businesses located within the City limits of Mount Holly for the purpose of paying rent or mortgage payments to avoid eviction or foreclosure. Loan amounts equal the actual monthly rental or mortgage payment of the business, not to exceed the sum of $5,000 per month, for up to three months.

State & Federal Tax Return Information

The US Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, and NC Department of Revenue are providing tax filing and payment relief to individuals and businesses in response to COVID-19.

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service

have extended the filing deadline for tax returns from April 15 to July 15, 2020. The IRS urges taxpayers who are owed a refund to file as quickly as possible. For those who can't file by the July 15, 2020 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request an extension to file their return.

NC Department of Revenue

In response to the extension of the federal April 15, 2020 deadline, the NC Department of Revenue will automatically extend the time to file State income and franchise tax returns to July 15, 2020, as well as provide expansion of tax penalty relief from March 15, 2020 through July 15, 2020.

Employee Retention Tax Credit

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created a new employee retention tax credit for employers who are closed, partially closed, or experiencing significant revenue losses as a result of COVID-19.

To be eligible, private employers, including non-profits, carrying on a trade or business in 2020 must-have operations partially or fully suspended as a result of orders from a governmental authority due to COVID-19, or experience a decline in gross receipts by more than 50% in a quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019.

For more information and continued updates, please go here.

Workforce Resources

​As our businesses navigate this unprecedented event, workers are also challenged with figuring out “what’s next?” As a local worker affected by this crisis, here are several resources you can use during this trying time.

Essential Business Designation

​On March 27th, Governor Roy Cooper issued a statewide 30-day Stay-At-Home Executive Order, which includes a description of businesses considered essential and able to remain in operation.

Businesses wishing to be designated essential may direct requests to the NC Department of Revenue by formally submitting a request for consideration.

Paid Sick Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

The FFCRA will apply through December 31, 2020, and generally requires that covered employers must provide two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave to all employees.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment filings continue to occur across the country at an alarming rate. In response, both state and federal programs have been developed.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes several unemployment insurance provisions.

In North Carolina, Governor Cooper lifted restrictions on unemployment for anyone affected by COVID-19 in all industries including the one-week waiting period, the requirement that a person must look for another job, allowing employees to apply for unemployment benefits, permitting applicants to apply for benefits remotely, and directing that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims.

Business Support Services

The following local business organizations have volunteered to assist your business during this crisis. Please contact them for questions you may have.

Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC)

Appalachian State University location

Phone: (828) 345-1110

Gaston College Small Business Center

Phone: (704) 922-6449

Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce

Phone: (704) 864-2621

Montcross Area Chamber of Commerce

Phone: (704) 825-5307

Bessemer City Area Chamber of Commerce

Phone: (704) 629-3900

Cherryville Chamber of Commerce

Phone: (704) 435-3451

Securing a Remote Workforce

Cyber security will be a bigger concern with many businesses shifting to a remote workforce. The Cyber Readiness Institute’s Cyber Readiness Program is a practical, step-by-step guide to help small and medium-sized businesses become cyber ready. It's completely free and requires as little as an hour a week to complete.

If you would like to volunteer your business services and expertise during this trying time, please send your offer to businesstaskforce@gastondevcorp.com.

How to Support Local Businesses

Our small businesses are the heart and soul of our community. They support our children’s sports teams and organizations, provide goods and services we need and love, and help make Gaston an amazing place to live.

In each municipality, local governments and organizations are working to promote these local businesses. And you can help, too.

First, visit Support Gaston to find a list of local businesses that are offering goods and services in creative ways. Check back often as new businesses are added frequently.

Next, visit the Gaston Outside Facebook Page for regular updates.

Here are some more ideas on how we can all support our local businesses through this time of uncertainty.

Buy gift cards

When this is all over, we’ll be back at our favorite shop, gym, or restaurant. If your favorite business offers gift cards, buying one now for something you’ll need later helps those businesses stay afloat.

Shop online / delivery

Several local shops have always offered online shopping and delivery. Some are just now adding it as a service. Shopping online is a great way to support your favorite places while getting the things you need in the safety of your own home.

To go and curbside pickup

By not gathering in groups at our favorite restaurants, we’re helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get our favorite food and drinks.

Several restaurants, breweries, and shops have remained open, offering to go orders and curbside pickup for both food and beverages.

Spread the word

Maybe the most powerful thing you can do is share the Support Gaston website online and within your own network of family and friends.

Also, if you notice your favorite local business isn’t yet listed on the site, please reach out to them. Getting listed is easy and free.

Additional Resources

Gaston County Government

CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses & Employers Guidance

US Chamber of Commerce: Coronavirus Resource Guide

US Chamber of Commerce: Coronavirus Small Business Guide

NC Chamber: Coronavirus Resource Guide

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