Utah unveils small business loan program, free childcare for critical workers as part of coronavirus response

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On Monday, Utah officials announced a new bridge loan program to help small businesses weather the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic. They also unveiled a program to provide free childcare for essential healthcare and public safety workers who are unable to stay at home during the outbreak.

The “Utah Leads Together” bridge loan program will provide between $5,000 and $20,000 to businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development is repurposing $8 million in economic development funds to provide the loans, and at least 25 percent of the loans will go to rural businesses.

“We hope to add more funds in the future,” said Val Hale, executive director of GOED. “Hopefully this money will be a bridge to the funding that will come through the Small Business Administration and other loan opportunities.”

The loans are interest-free for up to five years. The first round of applications open on Tuesday morning and will close on Friday. Details about the program are available at coronavirus.utah.gov.

The state also unveiled the “One Utah Childcare” program, which provides free childcare for essential workers. 

“Childcare is critical right now to keep Utahns working and it’s important to make sure it’s done safely,” said Tracy Gruber with the Utah Office of Childcare.

Gruber said there will be at least 10 programs available starting Wednesday, with more coming online in the coming days. 

The childcare centers will be open Monday through Friday from 7 am to 6 pm and will provide time for online classwork. 

“We recognize the closure of schools and many childcare centers as part of the Covid-19 pandemic has created both an increased need and a lack of access to childcare here in the state,” said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. “This issue is most critically felt among our most essential employees working on the frontlines to keep our community safe and healthy.”

Utah announced Monday that there were 806 cases of the coronavirus in the state, a 12 percent increase from the day before. 4 Utahns have died from the virus.