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Local business says Paycheck Protection Program will help weather the storm

The Paycheck Protection Program has been in national news headlines for the last few weeks as federal lawmakers approved funding to help small businesses that were forced to shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic with expenses such as payroll, rent, utilities, etc.

For one local business, the PPP has been a major help. Mary Noelker, owner of Central Kentucky Hemp located on North First Street, said the program will be very beneficial for her business as she, like many others, tries to weather the storm that COVID-19 has brought upon many small businesses across the country.

“Having extra funds to pay utilities, insurance and mortgage at a time when sales are down helps me weather this time,” Noelker said.

The PPP passed through the United States Congress as part of the larger CARES Act, meant to provide relief to Americans who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PPP, administered through the federal government’s Small Business Administration, is meant to primarily be used for payroll expenses, but portions of it can be used to cover costs such as utilities, rent, mortgage, insurance, etc.

The demand for funds was great, as funds from the program were quickly drained as more than a million applicants filed paperwork seeking assistance. The program began accepting applications on April 3 and by April 16, all the allocated funds had been used.

Small businesses that meet eligibility requirements for the program obtain a loan through a bank of their choosing. The loan, if used in accordance with guidelines set forth in the legislation, is forgivable.

After a couple weeks of deliberation, a second package of funds for small businesses across the United States passed through the U.S. Senate and then the House of Representatives before being signed into law by the President last week. The new package totaled $310 billion for the PPP as part of a larger $484 billion in coronavirus relief funding.

Noelker was one of the original applicants. She said she began the process with a bank in Lexington, but things didn’t work out.

“I first started the process through my credit card processing bank in Lexington and was “in line” to receive an application when the funds first ran out,” Noelker said. “That bank dropped everyone that had not completed the application and told us to go elsewhere.”

Noelker said she is thankful for the Danville-Boyle County Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Director Jeff Jewel, who helped point her in another direction.

“I then talked with Jeff Jewel at the Chamber who recommended I talk to Dalton Southerland at Farmers,” Noelker said. “He was a great help and I processed my application that day. It was an easy process with Dalton. Took very little time. I should have started with them in the first place.”

As for what the future holds, Noelker said there is a lot of uncertainty right now.

If the COVID-19 pandemic continues to slow the economy as businesses remain closed, many remain unemployed and people aren’t spending, especially locally, she said more assistance for small businesses may be needed.

“It depends on how long this crisis lasts,” Noelker said. “I think for small businesses to survive, we will likely need more help.”