The Sandy Springs Development Authority decided May 14 against an idea of using its reserve funds to help businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic through a revolving loan fund.
Andrea Worthy, the city’s economic development director, told the board members she had investigated how other agencies have set up revolving loan programs to help businesses cope with the coronavirus crisis. A city of Atlanta and Fulton County Development Authority program with $2 million in funding had so many applicants that in 15 minutes the funds were exhausted. Those loans ranged from $20,000 to $50,000.
Worthy said an outside agency experienced in administering loan programs ran that program. Worthy said she and Caroline Davis, an economic development specialist for the city, don’t have the resources to administer a loan program. But turning it over to an outside party eliminates the ability to specify what types of businesses qualify for a loan.
Chairman Chip Collins said that, with only about $300,000 in reserve funds, the authority doesn’t have enough money to make a difference for more than a handful of businesses.
“I think the concept is certainly worthy and admirable,” he said. “But would we really be making a difference? Is this the highest and best use of our funds to just help a number of businesses, just the lucky ones who are first to sign up?”
“I would agree with you that I don’t think it’s enough funds to make a difference. I’m not sure we want to commit the full amount of our reserves to any program,” said board member Jimmy Glenn, who is also a candidate for the Fulton County Board of Education.
Collins said he believes the authority won’t have a shortage of opportunities for assistance in the next 18 months.
Collins and other board members agreed that small businesses in the North End – and now with the coronavirus, perhaps all over the city – need help and they should look for ways to offer assistance.
Worthy said the staff will continue to look for ways to pool authority resources with other entities that make sense.