Help is on the way for local restaurants and small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis thanks to a short-term loan program approved last week by the Dublin City Council.

The Small Business Emergency Microloan Program offers financial relief to businesses during the current shelter-in-place orders; it serves to augment state and federal assistance programs.

“We are talking about a stopgap measure for an unprecedented situation,” said Councilmember Shawn Kumagai. “If we do not come to their aid, some of (the local businesses) will end up closing shop; that is just a fact.”

The program will provide zero-interest, unsecured, short-term loans of up to $10,000 to eligible small businesses. The loans offer a forgiveness component for those who stay in business over the next three years or meet the sales tax regeneration requirements.

Funding for the program will come from the city’s Small Business Assistance Grant (SBAG) Program created in 2013. Amador Valley Industries contributes $100,000 annually to the program to support small businesses in exchange for an exclusive construction and debris hauling contract. SBAG’s current balance of $519,461 will be used toward the new microloan program. Applicants will have the option of selecting a $5,000, $7,000 or $10,000 microloan based on their needs, and will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Of the roughly 2,300 local businesses in Dublin, city staff estimates between 50 to 150 merchants would qualify for the loan program.

Stephen Tay, manager of Raman 101 – a local small business could potentially qualify for such a loan – said he understands the community’s need for a financial infusion.

“I know that a lot of local mom and pops are hurting,” said Tay. “We are keeping up OK, but I know there are some businesses that are not. With the pandemic, anything helps. I will let people know (about the loan.)”

According to the city’s website, requirements for acceptance into the program include:

• Independently or locally owned businesses in good standing as of March 1, 2020. Preference will be given to restaurants and retailers.

• Minimum of one employee with a maximum of 50 employees.

• Can demonstrate at least a 25% reduction in revenues due to COVID-19.

• Can demonstrate that they have applied for federal or state financial assistance (i.e. Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance, etc.).

Businesses not eligible include, but are not limited to: lending and investment institutions, insurance companies, nonprofit entities, hotels, professional services (such as accountants, architects, engineering services, health care professionals, lawyers, etc.) home-based businesses, retail chain stores and franchises that are corporately owned.

Mayor David Haubert expressed reservations about the program, including concerns over repayment options, the depletion of the city’s SBA coffers and possible need for landlord forgiveness programs.

“There are too many unanswered questions in my mind,” he said. “If we give all of this money away then we have nothing for next year and the year after that when businesses want to come and we want to attract them … I’m concerned about it essentially being a grant … those are my hesitations, and I think they are very valid.”

Despite the concerns, the council eventually approved the program 5-0.

“No program is perhaps perfect, and so with that being said, the upside of keeping businesses in place outweighs the downside or overall cost of the program, so I am willing to support it,” Haubert said.

For additional information on the program and the application process, visit www.dublin.ca.gov.