Jayne Armstrong, director of the U.S. Small Busines Administration’s Iowa District Office, says 2020 has been a year like no other and it’s time to recognize everyone who’s been working so hard to keep the lights on during the ongoing health crisis.
“Oh my gosh, there are so many different workshops and different speakers and a lot related to the pandemic and the recovery and everything along those lines,” she says.
With more than 95-percent of the businesses in Iowa being small businesses, this year’s many weeks and months of shut-downs due to COVID-19 has been especially hard on multiple industries. Armstrong says a few key federal programs are helping to keep many thousands of Iowa small businesses afloat during these challenging times.
“We have done almost 62,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans,” Armstrong says. “We’ve also done several thousand of the Economic Injury Disaster loans. We actually hit a record that we did equal the number of regular loans that we do every year, we hit last Friday.” Despite the economic slow-down with the pandemic, Armstrong says it caught her off-guard that they still managed to maintain normal lending levels — while the pandemic-related loans were off the charts.
She credits the SBA office staffs in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids for working so many 18-hour days to crank out tens of thousands loans, enabling businesses of all sorts could survive. “We normally do about 400 to 425 loans in a year here in Iowa and we’re probably around 73,000, just especially since March,” Armstrong says, laughing. “It’s just crazy how many loans have been done to help small businesses and non-profits.” If any good has come from the pandemic, she says it’s how Iowans have been reminded about the vitality of their neighborhood- and Iowa-based merchants.
“The corporations always get all the press and all the glitz but it’s the mom-and-pop business owners that are out there trudging along every single day that are really keeping this American economy alive,” Armstrong says. “When they got hurt really badly through this, a lot of people really woke up to that, how important they are in their community.”