South Dakota lawmakers have added another option for small-business owners who need help getting through the coronavirus pandemic.
Legislators slogged through a slate of coronavirus bills Monday and into Tuesday morning during a marathon session. One of the bills they approved will establish a Small Business Economic Disaster Relief Subfund.
A total of up to $11 million will be transferred into the fund from several of the state’s existing economic development programs. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development will make zero-interest loans of up to $75,000 from the new fund to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The state fund joins a growing list of coronavirus-related assistance programs for small businesses. At the local level, organizations such as Elevate Rapid City are offering bridge loans. At the federal level, Congress has approved $350 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses and some nonprofits.
Gov. Kristi Noem said speed will be a priority with the state loans.
“We expect that those dollars would go out much quicker than the federal funds will be able to be released in our state,” she said.
Legislators share that expectation, according to state Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City.
“I expect the Governor's Office of Economic Development to act expediently and to make this process happen quite quickly,” Partridge said. “If it doesn’t happen by the end of the week, I’d be surprised.”
A provision in the loan-fund bill says meetings and deliberations about the loans by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development are exempt from public disclosure. But another provision requires periodic public reports on the names of the borrowers, the loan amounts and the maturity dates.