The Janesville City Council on Tuesday approved a citywide economic recovery plan, including the start of a small-business microloan program that could help businesses that were ineligible for other government help.
The council approved the plan unanimously with all members present.
Economic Development Director Gale Price acknowledged the plan will have to evolve as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ebb and flow.
The $100,000 loan program will give businesses up to $5,000 to help with rent, mortgages, paying suppliers or other costs.
Rock County’s emergency loan program requires businesses to have been open at least 12 months, have fewer than 20 employees and provide proof of revenue loss.
Janesville’s loan program could help businesses that don’t meet those prerequisites.
Rock County businesses have been allowed to reopen, with recommended restrictions, since the county lifted its safer-at-home order last week. But they face at least 10 weeks of uncertainty as they try to recover revenue they lost while being partially or fully shut down, Price said.
Janesville businesses who participated in the program will be responsible for paying back their loans. Repaid money will be allocated to the city’s downtown revolving loan fund.
Council member Doug Marklein asked what happens if a business closes before it repays the loan.
Price indicated it might be difficult to recover the city’s investment, depending on the business, and the city will recognize that as loan applications are vetted.
Members of the city’s revolving loan committee have volunteered to help vet applications, he said.
Marklein said he supported the recovery plan and loan program. The city should do whatever it can to help businesses that show promise through the economic challenges of the pandemic, he said.
The loan program is not “free money,” which is also why Marklein said he supported it.
Funding for the city’s program will come from Tax Increment Financing District 21, which closed this year.
The economic recovery plan includes some initiatives already underway, including a “shop local” marketing plan to encourage people to spend money in Janesville, regulatory changes such as allowing class B liquor licensees to sell prepackaged alcohol, and city staff helping connect businesses to resources, Price said.
Amendments can be made to the plan as necessary, he said.