OGDEN — The Ogden City Council has approved a new emergency loan program that could provide up to $1 million for Ogden businesses struggling to stay alive during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council unanimously passed the measure Tuesday night, allowing the city to accept donated funds to help businesses through the Small Business Loan Program. The city had recently received a $100,000 donation from Ogden-based R&O Construction to help small businesses during the pandemic but needed council approval to begin doling out more funding.

Ogden Comptroller Lisa Stout said the balance on the fund remains at $100,000 and the city will watch it carefully, only to lend out what has been collected in donations.

Tom Christopulos, director of the Ogden Community and Economic Development department, said the city continues to look for potential donors for the emergency program but has yet to solidify any agreements beyond the R&O contribution.

"We've talked to a number of (potential donors)," Christopulos said. "But people are cautious because they don't know what the future is going to bring."

Christopulos said the 0% interest loans, with a 10-year amortization schedule, will be given on a first-come, first-served basis to businesses that are most susceptible to closure during the pandemic. The loans are meant to pay for rent, payroll and operating expenses.

Nearly $75,000 has already been pledged to Ogden businesses. Christopulos provided a spreadsheet of the proposed expenditures, but business names were redacted.

Christopulos said the city loans are meant to augment money being lended by the state, through the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development, and by the federal government through the Small Business Administration. 

"Those take some time," he said. "We're just trying to augment and carry a bridge in the immediate days so we can help some people out."

Christopulos said he expects to see a flood of loan applications now that the council has approved the program, but he thinks activity will taper off for a few weeks and then pick up again when the economic ramifications of the pandemic are more clearly defined. 

During the council meeting, Betty Sawyer, access and diversity community engagement coordinator at Weber State University, expressed concerns about "marginalized community businesses" being informed about the program.

Christopulos said the city has notified all business licensees directly and the information is also available on the city website. The city is also working to ensure Spanish speaking business owners have proper access to information.

Anyone can donate to the program Christopulos said, including private citizens and business entities. Those interested in donating should contact Ogden's Community and Economic Development Department at 801-629-8910.

In related news, Ogden’s Own, the largest independent distillery in Utah, announced Wednesday it would donate $10,000 to support Ogden dining establishments through a fund established by the Ogden Downtown Alliance.

Kim Bowsher, director of the ODA, said the fund directly supports employees of restaurants, bars and food service facilities whose livelihood is most impacted by the current business closures. The ODA will be allocating funds in waves as they become available and restaurants and bar owners are encouraged to sign up for support at ogdendowntown.com/supportogdendining/.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!