ROCKY MOUNT – Startups and small businesses are getting hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, but a Rocky Mount-based non-profit is hoping to come to the rescue.

Golden LEAF Foundation — originally founded in 1999 to support tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural areas in North Carolina — is now fronting $15 million to launch a rapid recovery loan program.

Startup businesses that began operation before March 23, 2020 are eligible. Loan sizes are capped at approximately two months of current revenue (up to $50,000) — with zero interest and no payments for six months.

If not repaid in six months, the loan will automatically convert to a term loan.

“Small businesses are more than just job providers, they are pillars of our communities,” said Governor Roy Cooper, in a statement. “They need our support now more than ever, and this program can help people across the state as we weather the effects of this pandemic.”

The NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program is managed by the NC Rural Center, a statewide nonprofit that has been supporting small business owners for more than 30 years.

The Rural Center will lead a broad coalition of nonprofit lending partners to directly assist small business owners, including Business Expansion Funding Corporation (BEFCOR), Carolina Small Business Development Fund, Mountain BizWorks, Natural Capital Investment Fund, and Thread Capital.

The federal government has already made Economic Injury Loans available through the Small Business Administration (SBA) in all 100 North Carolina counties. The NC COVID-19 Rapid Recovery Loan Program will complement the SBA by providing a bridge until businesses can access funding from the SBA.

“The Golden LEAF Foundation recognizes the critical role small-business owners play in our state’s economy,” said Scott T. Hamilton, President, Golden LEAF Foundation’s president, in a statement. “The ‘LEAF’ in Golden LEAF stands for Long-term Economic Advancement Foundation. Golden LEAF cannot let this pandemic cause irreparable economic damage to our state’s small businesses.”

To learn more and apply, go here.

Startups, small businesses looking for cash? Fed to offer new option + SBA loans available