County officials and local tourism leaders held a conference call Thursday, March 19, and discussed using Transient Lodging Tax (TLT) funds to bail out local businesses that are struggling because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Tillamook County Commissioners said assistance in the form of short-term bridge loans would be targeted at tourism-related businesses, though the definition of what is tourism related could be vast in Tillamook County. A committee is being assembled to further discuss the idea and plan how the loans would work and who would be eligible.
There is currently around $3.5 million in the TLT pot, though $2.5 million is earmarked for upcoming grant awards for which applications have already been filed. Commissioners are also exploring state and federal funding possibilities and are seeking to collaborate with local banking institutions.
Tillamook County has not yet been added to the list of counties that are eligible for coronavirus relief loans announced this past week by President Donald Trump. The Small Business Administration can offer up to $50 billion in low-interest loans to small businesses during the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. Impacted businesses can apply for up to $2 million in loans.
“We need to get his money out there – we can’t just sit on it,” Commissioner Bill Baertlein said. “These businesses are bleeding.”
Baertlein said he wants to see money being disbursed by early next week, admitting that would be a breakneck pace. Commissioner David Yamamoto echoed the need for rapid response, saying local companies can’t afford to wait on longer state and federal timelines.
“Small businesses that aren’t able to fully operate are going to be in deep trouble,” Commissioner David Yamamoto said. “It’s my hope that we can find a way to help small businesses so that they are still around when this is all said and done.”
Restaurants are among the most at risk because of limitations put on service by the state. To clamp down on the possible spread of coronavirus, the governor ordered restaurants and bars to ban on-site dining, allowing only takeout and delivery service.
Local restaurants are reportedly already struggling to make payroll and cover taxes for the coming weeks. A gap in support and resources for the self-employed and sole proprietorships meant they are also at a high risk of shuttering for good without financial help.
“I was thinking about a business here in north county called Wolfmoon Bakery, they just passed their first-year anniversary and the community really loves them, and it’s just a husband and wife,” Commissioner Mary Faith Bell said. “They’re really suffering.”
This story is developing and updates will be posted