Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

During the June 1 City Council telephonic meeting, the economic development coordinator for the city of Tehachapi, Corey Costelloe, gave an update on relief programs offered to small business owners impacted by COVID-19.

In March, at the start of the pandemic, the city began offering the utility deferment program, with eight local business owners participating.

"One of the businesses already paid it off in full, which is good, but they still have up to six months to pay it back," Costelloe said in a telephone interview June 3.

Each week, the city of Tehachapi updates its Business Recovery Guide as a resource on its website at liveuptehachapi.com.

"Specifically, the latest update we made was adding all the information on Kern Recovers," said Costelloe.

Kern Recovers is a small business loan program that provides $25 million in forgivable loans of up to $75,000 each to local small businesses like restaurants, gyms and salons to directly mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19.

While similar to the federal Payroll Protection Program, the county’s program provides increased flexibility and will only be available to local small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and under $5 million in annual revenue.

Four local financial institutions — Valley Republic Bank, Mission Bank, Valley Strong Credit Union and AltaOne Federal Credit Union — have partnered with the county to process applications and administer these funds to eligible applicants.

"It's very similar to the federal program, but there is a better chance for the local guys getting that money," Costelloe said.

Interested businesses don't need to be customers of the banks in order to apply for the loans, nor will they be required to become customers.

"Basically, we are telling everyone this is what's out there for you, and if you qualify, we would encourage you to look at that and participate in the program. The county of Kern has set aside $25 million out of a $157 million grant that they received from the federal government for small business loans, grants and forgivable loans. So, small businesses can apply for additional grants to help them get through COVID-19 economic recovery," City Manager Greg Garrett said.

In addition, Costelloe said he is continuing to work with the county to help provide small businesses with personal protection equipment, such as hand sanitizer, gloves and masks.

Said Costelloe, "We are working on a Tehachapi distribution of them (PPE) probably in the coming weeks and give them to the businesses. I don't know what exactly the merchandise will be yet, but we will be assessing what they need depending on what they are having trouble getting themselves."

Asked if he is aware of any local businesses that have not survived the pandemic, Costelloe said, "I think what's happened is that a lot of them have found a way to get the assistance... A lot of our businesses are backed in some form or another. Although they certainly took a hit, but they have adapted or found a better way to do business. Some were even able to be more profitable during this."

Costelloe went on to say that others have managed to "keep their heads above water" through state and federal programs.

Said Costelloe, "Time will tell on that, but I am pretty impressed by ... resiliency of our small businesses. It just goes to show how well they are run because they were able to survive a mandated shutdown by the state, and are still able to come back."

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