For Christie Wall, finding out she didn’t have to pay back city loans for her two businesses to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic was a huge Christmas gift.
She got the call just before Christmas.
“I was speechless and pretty emotional, considering everything we’re going through right now,” Wall, owner of Grizzly’s Hatchet House and River City Escapes in the River District, said Tuesday. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The Danville Industrial Development Authority, which had loaned out $129,600 to eight businesses in the city earlier this year, decided to forgive the unpaid portion of the loans — totaling $117,617 — during a special meeting earlier this month.
The city had originally earmarked $140,000 in CARES Act money for the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. But when the district got its own CARES Act funds, it didn’t need the city’s share, so the $140,000 went to help cover the loans instead, said Danville Finance Director Michael Adkins.
With the deadline for spending CARES Act funding fast approaching, “we wanted to find a use for it,” Adkins said.
“That’s what we did with that money,” he said.
The loans that ended up being forgiven went to the following businesses: Amee Silk Garden LLC, Karen’s Hallmark Shop, Lizzy Lou Boutique, Moon River Thai restaurant, River District Auto Spa, Showcase Magazine, River City Escapes, and Grizzly’s Hatchet House.
The loans covered operation costs, helped pay rent, buy personal protective equipment, upgraded websites and other expenses, said Danville Economic Development Director Corrie T. Bobe.
“The funding was pretty flexible,” Bobe said.
The pandemic and temporary shutdown of non-essential businesses, as well as restrictions on public gatherings, have wreaked havoc on small businesses.
“We’re very thankful to the IDA for approving the forgiveness of these loans,” Bobe said. “It’s been a trying year for our small business community. It comes at a really important time of the year.”
IDA Board Chairman Neal Morris said, “Everybody’s having a tough time. We want to do everything we can to help the businesses in the city.”
According to the most recent figures available, the city provided $485,087 in total COVID-19-related grants and loans to 198 small businesses in Danville in 2020, Bobe said.
The loan forgiveness was “an answered prayer” for Wall. Her businesses were forced to close under orders from Gov. Ralph Northam earlier this year because they are considered entertainment and non-essential.
“We were completely shut down for four months,” she said, adding that her businesses are operating at 30% capacity due to state restrictions on gatherings imposed again in November.
The loans went to pay for overhead, utilities, insurance and rent, she said.
“I’m just extremely thankful for everything the city and the IDA have done,” Wall said. “They have really stepped up in more ways than one. I can’t say enough for the entire city. We are still open and with these two [loan forgiveness] announcements, I’m very blessed.”