In an effort to assist local small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 crisis, Berks County is set to launch a Small Business Restart Loan (SBRL) Program with 0% interest and no payments for 24 months.

Program applications will be accepted beginning Monday, June 15, 2020 and will be made available on the Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks website www.nhsgreaterberks.org.

Funding for the Berks County Small Business Loan Program comes from both federal and local sources, offering up to $2,300,000 in interest-free loans to area small businesses struggling to pay bills and maintain payroll during the shutdown.

Commissioner Michael Rivera is leading this effort. The Commissioner worked with several local organizations in developing the program to support local small businesses who have been detrimentally impacted by the Pennsylvania stay-at-home order.

These groups include the Berks County Redevelopment Authority which serves as the Administrator, Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks, Kutztown University Small Business Development Center, and Berks County Industrial Development Authority.

Several small businesses in Berks County have already announced permanently closing their establishments, though County Commissioners anticipate seeing an increase of closures if no additional assistance is provided. “Small businesses are the backbone of our community,” said Commissioner Christian Leinbach.

“It’s frustrating to see our local mom-and-pop shops forced to close their doors while large chain stores are open and offering many of the same services.”

What applicants need to know.

Small business owners in Berks County that meet eligibility requirements can submit an application for a five-year loan from $2,500–$10,000. No interest will be applied over the life of the loan and recipients will not need to make a payment for the first 24 months. Small businesses applying for the SBRL Program must meet specific eligibility criteria to be considered.

Applicant eligibility requirements:

  • Must be a privately held, for-profit business that has been established for at least 1 year
  • Located in Berks County, PA and outside the City of Reading
  • Employ 2-8 full-time equivalent employees
  • Show financial hardship of injury caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Demonstrates an annual gross revenue of $500,000 or less
  • Rehire, retain, or create a minimum of one (1) job which is available to or held by LMI persons
  • Agree to Public Health and Safety Reopening Plan
  • Must not have already received Federal funds for the same purpose
  • Must meet additional agreements as stated within the SBRL Program Guidelines (attached)

“We’ve seen how our local small businesses have been impacted during the shutdown,” said Commissioner Michael Rivera. “We want to help sustain their operations during this time and offer assistance to small businesses across Berks County as they make the necessary preparations to reopen their doors.”

Small businesses who receive a loan may qualify for the “50 Percent Loan Forgiveness Policy” for the amount received if they meet two of the three required factors. Required Factor 1 is mandatory, stating all loan award recipients must use these funds prior to December 31, 2020 to resume business operations. Recipients must then meet either of two other requirements to qualify for the policy.