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McLean County Board gives COVID-fighting taxpayers a break, small business owners a hand
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McLean County Board gives COVID-fighting taxpayers a break, small business owners a hand

BLOOMINGTON — The McLean County Board is trying to lessen COVID-19's hold on county residents by giving time to taxpayers and money to qualifying small- to medium-size businesses.

Meeting Tuesday evening via audio and video link to abide by state regulations for no more than 10 people to gather to limit the spread of COVID-19, the County Board approved postponing interest penalties for 30 days for property owners who are late paying the first installment of their property taxes.

The board also approved amendments to the McLean County Targeted Development Loan so that fund can lend money to small- to medium-size businesses suffering because they've reduced operations because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The waiver of the interest penalty for 30 days follows County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil's action — allowed by state statute — to delay by two weeks the due date of the first installment of property taxes to June 17 and the due date of the second installment to Sept. 17.

The two-week delay and the 30-day postponement of interest penalties mean that penalties would be assessed on payments made after July 17, McNeil said.

She plans to mail property tax bills on May 11. McNeil said the extensions would still allow her office to distribute tax money collected by June 17 to taxing bodies by June 30.

After the meeting, County Board Chairman John McIntyre called the extensions "a compromise," giving a break to taxpayers whose work hours have been cut because of the COVID pandemic while recognizing that taxing bodies, such as school districts, need the tax money.

The board also amended the development loan program, intended to help attract industries to the county, to provide emergency assistance to established small- to medium-size businesses hurting because of COVID-19.

The board finance committee had asked Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council CEO Patrick Hoban to develop a plan to amend the loan program.

Hoban proposed two programs, each with $300,000 in funding:

  • A Micro Bridge Loan Program for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, which called for $5,000, two-year loans with a 1 percent interest rate and deferred payments until January 2021.
  • A Recovery Loan Program for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, which called for a 20 percent gap loan of up to $20,000 to supplement a traditional loan. The loan would last the life of the financial institution's loan with an interest rate of 1 percent and deferred payments until January 2021.

Both programs require a support letter from a financial institution and a COVID impact statement.

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McLean County Board member Laurie Wollrab addresses the board during its meeting Tuesday, April 21, 2020, at the Government Center in downtown Bloomington. Wollrab proposed an amendment to strike a requirement that businesses applying for a county loan program must prove that they sought help from federal or state programs.

But board members agreed with an amendment proposed by member Laurie Wollrab to strike a requirement that businesses must prove that they sought help from federal or state programs.

"We all know the (federal) PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) ran out of money last week," Wollrab said. "The requirement that businesses should have applied to the PPP is an unnecessary hurdle" that may not be met.

"The whole purpose of this is to provide emergency funding to keep small businesses open," said member Carlo Robustelli.

Contact Paul Swiech at 309-820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech.

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