Small businesses in Palm Desert affected by the current COVID-19 shutdown may begin applying for $ 5,000 interest-free loans from the city’s emergency relief fund starting Thursday.

“This help is not just for closed businesses, but for all businesses that have been affected by state orders,” said Mayor Kathleen Kelly.

Up to 100 eligible businesses will receive the loans, approved on a first-come, first-served basis, with requests being processed as they are received so that the money can be withdrawn as quickly as possible, the development director said. economic, Martin Alvarez.

“It’s a very simple program,” Alvarez said. “The requirements to qualify would be that you comply, and continue to comply, with the current stay-at-home orders” put in place by the state on December 6 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses that may be eligible include hair and nail salons, barber shops and other personal care businesses that have been temporarily closed, as well as gyms and restaurants, which are currently only able to offer sales services. take out and delivery.

Applications are available on the city’s website,, and must be submitted by January 11 at noon.

Loans come from the Unite Palm Desert fund

City council unanimously approved the “reallocation” of $ 500,000 that had been earmarked for a hospitality incentive program as part of “Unite Palm Desert” on Tuesday at a special meeting.

The money is part of the $ 2.5 million economic development reserve fund that the council earmarked earlier this year for the creation of “Unite Palm Desert”. The tiered program was set up to help businesses and residents with interest-free loans and rent and mortgage assistance during the pandemic.

Loans will not need to be repaid unless the recipient violates the loan agreement, which will include a promissory note stating that compliance with state and county regulations continues after receipt of funds.

Through the program, a total of $ 989,850 in interest-free loans of $ 1,500 to $ 25,000 have so far been made to 156 Palm Desert businesses, officials said.

It’s not enough, says the board

In approving the loan program on Tuesday, council members said $ 5,000 was not enough and asked for additional funds.

For many businesses, this is the second or third time since March that the state has ordered them all to close together or offer limited services.

“The restaurateurs I’ve spoken to, they say, just to break even… they need a few thousand dollars a day,” said board member Gina Nestande. “While five thousand (dollars) is better than nothing… is there another pot of money that we could consider from our emergency funds or reach out to the state” for cash?

Responding to the board’s concerns about getting funds to businesses as quickly as possible, CFO Janet Moore said, “This was the fastest way to get things done. “

Staff are looking for other ways to help businesses financially, Moore said, and will offer a few options to the board at its next meeting in January.

There is money in the economic development reserve fund, she said. The money could also come from pending sales of properties owned by the city’s former redevelopment agency, half of which would go to the economic development fund, Moore said.

“It was only an immediate response, but we can keep looking; we can continue to do research, ”Moore said.

Council member Sabby Jonathan said about a third of the new $ 900 billion federal stimulus package approved by Congress this week, but not yet signed by President Donald Trump, is also designed to help small businesses.

Palm Desert Region Chamber of Commerce CEO Pam Scannell applauded the city for arranging the latest round of loans.

“Maintaining the availability of financing for closed businesses, due to state mandates, helps support them while they comply with the closures,” said Scannell.

The application period opens on December 30 for the California Small Business Assistance Grant program on the grant website, at

The chamber’s small business development committee also hosts daily informational webinars, to keep business owners up to date with the latest grant information, although some details are still being worked out, Scannell said. .

The webinars can be viewed on the chamber’s website,

The Palm Desert Room has also launched an electronic gift card program. Gift cards, which can only be used at participating local merchants, can be purchased on the chamber’s website.

“The list of merchants keeps growing,” said Scannell. “The card is sent to your recipient’s phone, nothing to lose in the mail.”

For more information on the city’s Unite Palm Desert Emergency Business Loan Program and other forms of Palm Desert business assistance, contact (760) 776-6362 or email at [email protected]

City Hall will be closed from Dec. 24 to Jan. 4, however, loan requests will be accepted through the email address and will be time-stamped in order of receipt, officials said.

Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the towns of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherryBarkas.

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