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MSU Small Business Development Center helps businesses navigate CARES Act relief programs

As Mississippi’s small businesses navigate hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi State University personnel are providing guidance as owners seek funds from the U.S. government’s $2 trillion stimulus package. 

The MSU Small Business Development Center, housed in MSU’s College of Business, regularly provides no-cost counseling to business owners within its 10-county footprint. Chip Templeton, MSU SBDC director, said the center has been working to understand the rapidly evolving provisions for businesses in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and relay that information to business owners. 

Templeton said there are two main relief programs business owners can seek loans from. The Paycheck Protection Program, created by the CARES Act and administered through bank loans, provides funding intended to help business owners keep their employees on payroll and pay for some expenses. If conditions are met, the loan can be forgiven. Business owners can also apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program through the U.S. Small Business Administration, which provides up to a $2 million loan.  Borrowers can receive up to $10,000 in an emergency grant cash advance that can be forgiven if spent on certain expenses. The MSU SBDC is available to provide more details and business counseling. 

“We’re here to help people and show them what these programs are all about,” Templeton said. “It’s a very fluid situation, but we’re receiving updates multiple times a week. It always feels good when you can talk out loud about your problem and have someone you can speak confidentially with. That’s the role that we play. We’re not in the deciding position on loans or anything like that, but we guide business owners and help them get the right information.” 

Templeton also emphasized the importance of being proactive and checking in with key business partners, including the business’ “BAIL” team of bankers, accountants, insurance professionals, and lawyers that the owner regularly works with. 

“People always appreciate when you check in,” Templeton said. “If it’s your banker, you don’t want to wait until you’re behind on a payment. You want to be proactive and explain the situation. The other key thing is strategy. There’s a strategy to how you might use these programs and which way is best for you.” 

Mike Tagert, who serves as CEO of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership and associate director for corporate and economic partnerships within MSU’s Office of Research and Economic Development, also has been working to communicate key details of the CARES Act provisions to the local business community. The Partnership has been supporting local businesses by providing the broader community with relevant information on business changes related to COVID-19 and aggregating relevant resources for business owners at www.starkville.org/support.

Tagert said the positive relationship between Starkville and MSU will be important as the city works to recover economically. 

“As a significant economic driver, Starkville’s economy is not only important in the Golden Triangle, but also to the ultimate recovery of our state and region,” Tagert said. “At a time like this, it’s so important to have that relationship with the university and to take advantage of the resources that the university provides statewide. The good work being done throughout the university and its Small Business Development Center is vital to our eventual recovery.” 

The MSU Small Business Development Center, with offices in Starkville and Meridian, is one of eight located in Mississippi. Its service area includes Choctaw, Clay, Kemper, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Monroe, Montgomery, Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Webster counties.

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