PUEBLO – Small businesses in Pueblo are pleading with city officials to consider forgiving urgent COVID-19 loans they received back in 2020.
On Monday night, several small business owners sat in front of city councilors, articulating their reasons why they should not demand repayments of more than $ 1 million in loans to the city.
“I can’t name a single business that currently can afford to pay it off because, let’s face it, we haven’t returned to normal,” said Lee Gladney, owner of Pueblo Bearings.
Gladney did not receive any loans from the city at the height of the pandemic, but says he “came to the realization that we (small businesses) need to stick together” when COVID-19 erupted.
The conversation sparked a lengthy debate among city councilors over whether to refuse loans or not.
Ultimately, the city council voted to defer interest-free payments on the loan until the summer of 2022, but is expected to revise the option to fully forgive the loan.
District 1 Representative Bob Schilling believes that all loans should be paid by small businesses because he takes into account the feelings of other citizens in the community.
“The rest of the citizens, I think, fully expect these debts to be paid off, and to give them a year to move forward and not charge them any interest, I don’t know how far back we will go.”
However, roving spokesman Mark Aliff has no fears that Pueblo residents will be unhappy with the decision to forgive small business loans.
“The only thing I got from citizens is that they fully support loan forgiveness. The community knows how important small businesses are to our success as a community, and whatever we do to help the community, they want to help. help.”
The city recently decided to write off all loans that went to nonprofits in Pueblo.
“Fairly, it would be fair if the city council canceled these loans or forgave these loans, as they did with nonprofits. It makes sense, ”said Gladney, who believes that if not, loans can be canceled, as can small businesses, which he claims have lost more during the pandemic than nonprofits that regularly receive funding from the city. and districts.
Aliff mentioned that the city was willing to use the $ 5 million in economic development funds that come from taxes to aid COVID-19 in Pueblo, and as far as he knows, those loans used one-fifth of that amount. According to him, the city was reimbursed for the loans issued at the expense of financial assistance from the state during the pandemic. However, Schilling believes that the withdrawal from loans “sets a bad precedent” in the future.
“If you start doing this … Well, let’s just ask the city for money, and they won’t make us return it!”
A total of 34 businesses received emergency loans for COVID-19. Two of these businesses have started making payments, according to Schilling.