UA Program Helps Small Businesses with Challenges in Pandemic

University Of Alabama

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Shanaya Daughtrey

TUSCALOOSA, Ala- Over the last five months, a program based at the University of Alabama helped thousands of small businesses in the state successfully tap into federal disaster funds, preserving jobs and helping them stay open during the pandemic.

The Alabama Small Business Development Center led an effort to assist businesses to learn about the federal programs and aid their efforts to access the critically needed funds.

The statewide SBDC, part of the UA Office for Research and Economic Development, delivered over 55 workshops on applying for disaster funding.

Because of this, close to 6,600 individuals participated in the SBDC training webinars and advising services, resulting in $117 million in funding for small businesses.

“We experienced unprecedented demand for our workshops and one-on-one advising services, up 560% and 1,300% respectively, pointing to the magnitude of the disaster,” said Michael Brooks, SBDC associate director, who spearheaded the workshops with finance specialists from the SBDC Capital Access Program.

“The impact on the state’s small business sector, which accounts for an estimated 789,000 employees, or 48% of Alabama’s private sector workforce, has been devastating,” Brooks said.

Equally important, the federal government rolled out two major programs to deal with the economic crisis created by COVID-19.

The Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans were created to provide liquidity for businesses and preserve jobs.

The U.S. Small Business Administration was tasked with delivering both programs throughout the country.

Alabama’s SBDC was asked to lead the effort in Alabama to help businesses learn about the technical details of the PPP and EIDL programs.

According to a survey of the 6,600 individuals that participated in the training and advising, nearly 80% of respondents attributed their success in securing funding to SBDC assistance.

As maintained by the survey, 434 firms received the EIDL advance; 106 firms received the EIDL disaster loan, and 773 firms received PPP funding.

Many organizations partnered with the SBDC to spread the word about the federal loan programs and SBDC webinars to their customers and members.

“The University of Alabama is proud to partner with the state’s small business community in protecting jobs and businesses during this unprecedented situation, and the Alabama Small Business Development Center will continue in its support of our state’s vital small businesses,” said Dan Blakely, associate vice president of the UA Office for Economic and Business Engagement.

In accordance with the SBDC, the SBA provided additional support through a grant to increase its technical assistance capability for Alabama’s small businesses, especially those in hard-hit market sectors and rural areas of the state.

Along with operating as a partnership program with SBA, the state of Alabama and higher education systems,  SBDC also provides training and confidential advising services in all 67 counties in Alabama for business start-up, growth and access to capital.

For more information and updates on other programs, click here.

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