What we are seeing. The COVID-19 pandemic is already having a devastating effect on Maine’s small businesses. The entrepreneurs we work with, particularly in the restaurant, lodging, child care and construction industries, are struggling, and this is having a ripple effect on workers as well as local vendors and service providers. Here are just a few examples. Restaurants, a brewery and a child care center have closed and laid off their workers. A family farm-based business that sells to Maine schools and colleges has lost much of their market and their cash flow is drying up quickly. Conference cancellations all over the country has meant slashed orders for a Maine business and after paying workers with no work for this past week the owners are having to consider the very difficult decision whether they will have to let most of their staff go. These are incredibly hard decisions, because these workers are colleagues and neighbors, but customers and orders have evaporated.
What we are doing. We are responding to the explosion in need from our borrowers, business advisees, and people already burdened by debt who are facing job losses as well as helping to connect critical community institutions like child care centers and hospitals that have complementary needs. At the same time, we are advocating vigorously at the state and federal levels for solutions that ensure that our most vulnerable people, businesses and communities do not bear the brunt of this crisis.
Specifically, in the past week:
- We swiftly made the decision to provide temporary relief to our small business borrowers that need it.
- Our lending team processed loan modifications, offering relief designed to help lift some of the burden from those borrowers experiencing the greatest need.
- Our business coaches fielded desperate requests for help from hundreds of small business owners they work with who are facing very difficult choices and need customized guidance and access to resources.
- We are still approving loans from a businesses with good prospects and initiated a fully electronic process for loan closings so our staff and borrowers can sign documents virtually and stay safe.
- We have brought Maine’s rural perspective to the first stimulus proposals moving through Congress, which in our view does not yet include provisions for sufficient relief to the small business sector, employing almost half of all working Americans. It is critically important that the U.S. puts small businesses at the center of the stimulus and recovery effort.
- We are monitoring support as it becomes available from the federal and state government, sharing regularly updated information and links on our website and through our social media platforms.
For every small business we help stay in business or expand, we are helping strengthen our economy and workforce for the future.
How you can help. CEI has relationships of trust with our small business borrowers and advisees, who are disproportionately low income, women, immigrants and refugees, people of color, veterans and people with disabilities – the very people that are most at risk in this public health and economic crisis. Their needs are skyrocketing right now, and your support would be a great help keeping Maine small businesses on their feet and minimizing the negative impact on their workers. Every low-income worker who remains employed is one who does not have to go to a food pantry to feed their family.
Please consider providing one or both of the following now, as we strengthen our capacity to provide more financial relief to our borrowers:
- Zero interest rate investments
CEI is a tax-exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our tax identification number is EIN 01-0347504.
With you, we are building an economy that works for everyone.
“We’re endlessly grateful for the opportunities we were given by CEI. We would not have had the courage and confidence to start our business without the free business counseling that was provided to us. In addition, the loan granted by CEI provided start-up funds that otherwise would not be available to us.”Kelly Brodeur, Co-owner, Vintage Maine Kitchen