BRCCC hosts tele-town hall to help small businesses navigate federal assistance programs

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – On Wednesday, the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce held a tele-town hall over the phone that local business owners could jump on.

Business owners phoned in to ask questions and get tips as they navigate through the CARES Act and other federal assistance programs designed to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the leaders of the discussion was Jina Belcher, the deputy director for the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. 

One of the ways the NRGRDA is helping businesses is by creating a portal where businesses can take two surveys on their website to share what they’ve experienced and also share their hours and business changes. This will help compile data and figure out best ways to help. 

“There’s a variety of questions that we feel are really valuable that they can, you know, sort of show us what they are facing right as boots on the ground businesses, and this is opened up to the entire state of West Virginia, so any businesses across the state will be able to respond to this,” Belcher said. 

Belcher also discussed the paycheck protection program through the SBA which can supply businesses with 8 weeks of cash flow assistance.

This will be through an SBA lender, so she encouraged businesses to reach out to their banks to see if they are participating. She says many in the area are, but many of those banks are not taking on new clients.

On the SBA website, businesses can apply for the economic disaster loan program.

Tiffany Kapp, the president and HR specialist for Compliance, was also on the call as she talked through unemployment. 

“The unemployment expansion that was passed due to the CARES Act will expand unemployment benefits to self-employed and part-time workers. This has never been available in the past. Those who are unemployed due to COVID-19 are encouraged to just apply through Workforce West Virginia or the state that you are working in,” Kapp said. 

Even if some don’t qualify for state unemployment as a sole proprietor she said there is the possibility to receive federal assistance.

Lenders and the SBA are being inundated with requests so the timeline is still uncertain for when that assistance will start coming in, but the chamber plans to do another town hall to continue to help answer questions. 

“The experts that were on today and myself realize what a fluid situation that this is and new information is unfolding daily, and so we will be doing a follow up call within the next couple of weeks to answer new questions that will arise from all of the major provisions that are a part of the CARES Act,” BRCCC President and CEO Michelle Rotellini said. 

If you were not in on this call but want to hear it in its entirety, you can go to the chamber’s website for the recording by clicking here.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.