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State closes pandemic-spurred HELP loans

Katie Tabeling

WILMINGTON — A loan program born from the COVID-19 pandemic to support struggling hospitality and cosmetology businesses during a year of oscillating restrictions has now closed.

The Delaware Division of Small Business announced Friday the Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (HELP) would accept no more applications and it would close down. The program focused on providing financial support to hospitality and cosmetology businesses that likely were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Terms of the program provides loans up to $10,000 a month to businesses that have been in operation for at least a year and have an annual revenue below $2.5 million. The loan can be used on rent, utilities and other bills but not personnel costs.

The loans have a 10-year term with payments deferred for nine months but have no interest.

Gov. John Carney created the HELP program in March 2020, almost a week after the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic started to set in on the East Coast. The program was geared toward bars, restaurants and hotels — the first hit by financial hardship as the state entered in a stay-at-home order that lasted until June.

The state initially funded the program, but soon it was supercharged by federal CARES Act funding which brought millions in aid to Delaware. Rolled into the DE Grants program, both initiatives were valued at $100 million.

By the end of the program more than a year later, the Division of Small Business administered $10.7 million in loans to 364 businesses. That figure includes 172 businesses in New Castle County, 124 in Sussex County and 61 businesses in Kent County. Five companies that span multiple counties were awarded loans: Ashby Hospitality, Arenas, Brick Works Brewing and Eats, The Greene Turtle and Touch of Italy.

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