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Emergency bill passed in Jacksonville City Council, establishes small business relief program through VyStar

Small businesses impacted by COVID-19 will have the opportunity to apply for loans through VyStar Credit Union, backed by grants and interest paid through the city.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Small businesses in Jacksonville impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will now have access to city-funded interest payments and loan principal through a small business relief program through VyStar Credit Union, thanks to a bill passed Monday in Jacksonville City Council's virtual meeting.

Ordinance 2020-0201 creates what the city calls the "COVID-19 Small Business Relief & Employee Retention Grant Program." It was passed unanimously during what has become the normal: a city government meeting on Zoom.

RELATED: 'Open government' moves online amid COVID-19 thanks to push from Jacksonville Ethics Director

"This was built to get money to small businesses fast, within days of finishing the application process," said Mayor Lenny Curry at a press conference Monday.

In order to qualify for loans, businesses must have been in operation for one year and employ anywhere from two to 100 people. They will also have to provide the most recent one year of business tax returns and one year of personal tax returns.

Small business owners can begin to apply for loans through the city partnership here.

"I think this is a good move forward. It shows that we care about the economic engine of this community," Councilman Tommy Hazouri said during the council meeting. "Moving this to the top of the list is very meaningful for our small businesses."

Over a six-year term, the city will put forward a maximum of $26.5 million, depending on need. The city's money will go toward interest payments on the loans through grants and paying down the loan principals.

"By removing barriers and covering costs, the program will give [small businesses] access to capital we believe should provide a safety net to survive this troubling time," said Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes during the meeting.

RELATED: Florida's First Coast Relief Fund re-activates amid COVID-19 pandemic (FCL March 24th 2020)

Any Duval County small business approved for a loan through VyStar and completing appropriate documentation would receive:

  • $250 for a servicing fee
  • A $1,000 relief grant
  • A forgivable interest grant covering interest payments for the first year
  • Continued forgivable interest grants for years two through six, provided the business retains 50% employment
  • A principal forgiveness grant for years two through six equal to 10 percent of the principal amount

Councilwoman Joyce Morgan asked why VyStar was selected as the financial institution the city would partner with. Hughes said it was due to timing, and that other partners are being sought.

"We'll look for partnerships wherever they make sense," Hughes said. "This is not necessarily a statement that one institution is better than others. We'll work with anyone, it was a timing issue and we're glad [VyStar] stepped up."

Hughes added that applying and receiving a loan through this program would not be affected if a business is also applying for federal assistance.

A representative from VyStar said they have already had around 100 small businesses reach out, and that funds are expected to be released around five days after application approval.

Click here to visit VyStar's website to learn more about this program.