The COVID-19 pandemic has hit small businesses hard. More than 50 of Halifax County businesses have received assistance during this challenging time, through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

A total of 56 Halifax County businesses have received PPP loans, which are issued by lenders and guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Twenty-four businesses received loans over $150,000, with one South Boston business — trucking company R.O. Harrell, Inc. — receiving a loan of more than $1 million.

Five businesses received loans between $350,000 and $1 million, and the rest received loans between the amount of $150,000 and $350,000. A range of local businesses, including construction companies and doctor’s offices, received loans.

In addition to the Halifax County businesses receiving PPP loans of $150,000 or higher, 32 other businesses received loans under $150,000, for a total amount of $7,779,015.24.

President Donald Trump signed legislation to extend the Program’s deadline until Aug. 8, so businesses still have the opportunity to apply for the loans. The Halifax County Industrial Development Authority is available to assist local businesses in applying for the loans.

“We’re trying to serve as a liaison for all the different programs that are out there for businesses and facilitate them through the process,” said IDA executive director Brian Brown. “This (PPP) program has been very vital to our businesses. This has been a key plan that has been put in place to help businesses dealing with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The PPP loans are designed to help businesses cover eight weeks of payroll expenses, including benefits, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury (https://home.treasury.gov.) The loans also can be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. Businesses may borrow up to 250% of their average payroll expenses. The U.S. Small Business Administration will forgive the loans if all employee retention criteria are met.

In addition to the PPP loans, a number of other resources are available to Halifax County businesses facing financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. Brown said he has been meeting weekly with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance and the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce weekly since the start of the pandemic to discuss impacts to local businesses.

Businesses can access resources by visiting the Alliance’s web page: www.svra.org and clicking on “COVID-19 economic resources.” He added local businesses also have the option of registering for an upcoming webinar hosted by the Alliance on the topic of Governor Ralph Northam’s “Safer at Home” guidelines. The webinar is scheduled for July 28 at 10 a.m.

The IDA executive director said while the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for Halifax County businesses and industries, the county has not been impacted by the pandemic to the extent some other communities have been impacted.

“We have been blessed to have great employers to sustain a lot of what has happened with the economy,” Brown said. He shared with the IDA board in a Friday morning meeting that Halifax County’s unemployment number for May was 8.6%, lower than the statewide unemployment of 9.4% for that month.

Even though the county, and the nation as a whole, are starting to rebound from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with the unemployment numbers decreasing each month, another economic shutdown such as the one that occurred in March is not out of the realm of possibility as the pandemic continues. Brown said the IDA is prepared to assist the business community if another shutdown occurs. Businesses seeking assistance with applying for PPP loans or other resources may contact the IDA at 434-572-1734.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.