Small businesses prepare for changes

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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By Jenna Oden

On Tuesday morning, more than 100 businesses across Troup County joined a virtual meeting to discuss how to handle the financial impacts that will come because of the coronavirus.

Hosted by the LaGrange-Troup Chamber of Commerce and small business advocate Brandon Eley, businesses heard from Representative Drew Ferguson on suggestions to face these financial hardships.

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Ferguson said adhering to the CDC guidelines will help slow the virus.

“We do have to slow the spread of this,” Ferguson said. “I think that what we are going to find is the increase in the number of cases reported, part of that is better testing that is coming. That is going to drive more of how we restrict travel and activities in certain areas.”

Ferguson said Congress is focused on how less travel will impact small businesses.

“The realization of when you tell people to stay home, and avoid going to restaurants, hotels and restricting travel, it has an immediate impact on small businesses,” Ferguson said.

According to Ferguson, the treasury is looking into processing loans with little to no interest to provide very quickly to small businesses.

“Keep in mind, we will have to change the regulations because that is a very encompassing process with the underwriting,” Ferguson said. “Administration said they want to relax that tremendously so that the cash can get to businesses to do things like make rent payments and to continue to cover costs.”

Businesses are also looking at how they will be able to pay employees with less revenue.

Ferguson said that if an employee is sick or has to stay home due to a sickness in the family, employees will get a mandatory two-week paid sick time.

“Businesses will be able to get a refundable tax credit into their accounts,” Ferguson said. “If you have an employee that meets the requirements, you will have the ability to have a refundable tax credit to pay that employee’s salary for the duration of the national emergency.”

The chamber received the filing information for the tax credit from Ferguson’s office and is expected to send it out to chamber business members.

Ferguson asked that businesses continue to share their ideas on how to combat the impact to their revenue with his office.

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said the city is being very mindful of how this is impacting small businesses, manufacturers and large businesses in the community.

“The first goal here is to follow best practices, and the advice of healthcare experts at the CDC and Department of Public Health,” Thornton said.

All the small businesses were given the recommendation to talk with their banker immediately.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Mike Speight, Market President of Colony Bank. “Something that might not have worked [with loans or deferments] three months ago, might work today. You need to be open with your banker and talk about what it is that you will struggle with and what you think your needs will be.”

Speight also recommended that businesses start adjusting their business model.

Multiple small businesses in the community tossed around ideas with one another to help deal with the impact, while still creating some revenue. These included:

  • Encouraging Facebook usage for the business
  • Encouraging customers to go through their websites to order
  • Restaurants using curbside pick up
  • Encouraging tipping for delivery services
  • Promoting gift cards
  • Promoting how the business is staying clean and following CDC guidelines
  • Looking into small business disaster loans at

The chamber expects to host additional small business virtual meetings as the week’s pass, and the virus continues to impact local revenue.