NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Businesses with “Closed” signs are easy to find in Jefferson Parish due to COVID-19 and on Monday (March 30) the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission known as JEDCO held a question-and-answer web conference to help business owners understand how the new federal CARES Act could benefit them.
JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna said there is a lot in the new law for businesses to try to digest during a difficult time.
"They're feeling a lot of pain, first of all, they're being forced to make very difficult decisions to keep their doors open, to keep employees employed,” said Bologna.
The novel coronavirus has hit the New Orleans area hard and Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order remains in place for all but essential businesses and personnel.
The CARES Act, also called the stimulus package, provides for more than $300 billion in government-backed loans for small businesses.
Bologna highlighted a provision in the law he believes will be most helpful to small business owners.
"The most important part we see is the forgivable loan portion which we think is going to be an incentive for our businesses to keep people employed and to rehire employees they may have laid off or furloughed,” said Bologna.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, says the federal assistance is designed to keep business afloat during the pandemic.
"Obviously, we're trying to incent large companies, small businesses, sole proprietorships to keep people working,” said Kennedy.
The new law provides for emergency loans that can be forgiven if businesses use the money to maintain their payroll.
"Small businesses are the lifeline of our business community here in Jefferson and I think throughout southeast Louisiana, those small businesses, many of them are mom and pop operations and they can't afford to take on more debt, so the forgivable loan option we believe is going to be the most attractive part of that bill to help these businesses,” Bologna said.
Bologna said some businesses are doing their best to hang on in hopes of times getting better and he said JEDCO is working to help them do so.
"We’re trying to make sure that our businesses have all the resources that they can avail themselves of, so that when the time comes to reopen the economy and get back to work our businesses are prime to do so,” said Bologna.