Small businesses in Durham form coalition to discuss COVID-19 relief funding with city leaders

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- During the pandemic, Nicole Oxendine, owner of Empower Dance Studio in downtown Durham had to move her business online.

Oxendine received 8 weeks of temporary relief under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for her 9 employees.

"We will have to close next month because our PPP funds have run out," Oxedine said. "I won't make it 'til July as a business."

The City of Durham is playing catch up to financially help small businesses, including minority and women-owned - like Oxendine's.

Across the state, leaders in Buncombe, Mecklenburg, and Wake Counties have created recovery programs.

Wake County is providing $5 million toward businesses. The City of Raleigh is providing grant funds up to $10,000. The City of Durham is proposing up to $50,000 in loan for each small business, with a term of up to 10 years, with the option of deferred payments up to 12 months.

"Small business can't take on more debt we all have slim margins and cash reserves," said Ryan Hurley of retail clothier Vert & Vogue downtown.

Leonardo Williams of Zwelis Restaurant is concerned is also concerned about growing debt. He needs to replace two refrigerators at his business and factor in the cost of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment for his staff once Durham's stay at home order is lifted.

"We are in between multiple rocks and hard places not knowing if we are going to have enough money to sustain when we do open back up," said Williams.
Frustrated by Durham's recovery loan proposal, Hurley, Williams and Oxendine joined forces to create the new Durham Small Business Coalition. A group of small businesses meeting with City leaders this Friday via the internet. During the online public forum will share their ideas on a stimulus package.

"The city committed a million dollars to this relief fund, we're going to ask the city to double that. We're going to ask the county to match that with $2 million to have a $4 million dollar fund," Hurley said.

Friday's public forum will also include a presentation showing what municipalities are doing across the country to help small businesses. Durham County leaders have also been invited to participate.

The forum will be live-streamed for public viewing on the City of Durham's YouTube page.

Guests can also log in to watch via Zoom by using Password: 141993 and Webinar ID: 936 5695 0330.
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