The second round of a federal financial aid program for businesses harmed by the pandemic has been more beneficial for Baker County than the first round.

Many businesses had pending applications when the initial $349 billion allocation for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was exhausted in early April, 13 days after the program started.

Congress added more than $310 billion to the program in late April.

Jeff Nelson, Baker County business adviser with Blue Mountain Community College’s Small Business Development Center, said around 80% of the local businesses that applied on the first round but didn’t receive a loan also applied for the second round.

And Nelson, who said just four of the 73 businesses he worked with in the initial round received a loan, said many more were successful this time.

“Umpqua Bank, they told me they have loaned out over $3 million to Baker County businesses,” Nelson said this week. “Community Bank, from what I understand it was like $25 million throughout the Community Bank areas.”

In addition to its Baker City branch, Community Bank has branches in Union, Wallowa and Umatilla counties as well as in Washington state.

Nelson said he has not received a report from US Bank on the amount it has loaned to businesses, but that “they were online the most.”

“In the last ten days, I know of over $260,000 that came into 11 businesses,” Nelson said.

Nelson gave a “thumbs up” to the banks and their loan officers for working with local businesses.

Nelson said unemployment benefits are also beginning to flow more freely, which is vital since a total of 674 county residents have filed for initial jobless benefits since March 15.

“Hopefully this won’t last too much longer,” Nelson said.

He said that in addition to the two main federal programs — the PPP and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance — Baker County is looking to apply for a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant. County officials estimate that at least 15 businesses or individuals, all with low or moderate incomes, could receive money if the county gets the grant.

Nelson also said he hopes the state will distribute some of the $2.45 billion it received from the federal CARES Act through the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District to help businesses that didn’t receive other assistance.

“At least that would be my recommendation,” Nelson said.

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