University of Alabama program helps small businesses with challenges in pandemic

University of Alabama program helps small businesses with challenges in pandemic
Alabama Small Business Development Center helped small businesses secure $117 million in funding during five months of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to provide valuable resources. (Getty Images)

During a five-month period this year, a program based at the University of Alabama helped thousands of small businesses in the state successfully tap into federal disaster funds to preserve jobs and stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Alabama Small Business Development Center led an effort to assist businesses to learn about the federal disaster programs and to aid their efforts to access the critically needed federal funds.

The statewide SBDC, part of the UA Office for Research and Economic Development, delivered more than 55 workshops on applying for disaster funding, addressing almost daily changes in the funding programs. Close to 6,600 individuals participated in the SBDC training webinars and advising services, resulting in $117 million in funding for small businesses.

“We experienced unprecedented demand for our workshops and one-on-one advising services, up 560% and 1,300% respectively, pointing to the magnitude of the disaster,” said Michael Brooks, SBDC associate director, who headed the workshops with finance specialists from the SBDC Capital Access Program. “The impact on the state’s small business sector, which accounts for an estimated 789,000 employees, or 48% of Alabama’s private sector workforce, has been devastating.”

The Alabama Small Business Development Center at the University of Alabama has provided crucial services to thousands of Alabama small businesses during the pandemic. (Getty Images)

To deal with the economic crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government rolled out two major programs. The Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans were created to provide needed liquidity for businesses and preserve jobs. The U.S. Small Business Administration was tasked with delivering both programs throughout the country.

As a longtime resource partner of the SBA, the Alabama SBDC was asked to lead the effort in Alabama to help businesses learn about the technical details of the PPP and EIDL programs.

Based on a survey of the 6,600 individuals who participated in the training and advising, nearly 80% of respondents attributed their success in securing funding to SBDC assistance. The survey indicated 434 firms received the EIDL advance; 106 firms received the EIDL disaster loan; and 773 firms received PPP funding.

Many organizations partnered with the SBDC to spread the word about the federal loan programs and SBDC webinars to their customers and members.

“The University of Alabama is proud to partner with the state’s small business community in protecting jobs and businesses during this unprecedented situation, and the Alabama Small Business Development Center will continue in its support of our state’s vital small businesses,” said Dan Blakley, associate vice president of the UA Office for Economic and Business Engagement.

Recently, the SBA provided the SBDC with additional financial support through a grant to increase its technical assistance capability for Alabama’s small businesses, especially those in heavily hit market sectors and rural areas of the state.

The Alabama SBDC provides training and confidential advising services in all 67 counties in Alabama for business start-up, growth and access to capital. Hosted at UA, the SBDC operates as a partnership program with the SBA, the state of Alabama and higher education institutions.

For more information and updates on other programs, visit the center’s website.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

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