By T. Scott Boatright
As Louisiana continues beginning to emerge from the cocoon it has spent much of the last year inside trying to protect itself from and slow the COVID-19 pandemic, Experience Ruston — the Ruston-Lincoln Visitors and Convention Bureau — has been granted the opportunity to secure funding to help do so.
On Thursday the Louisiana State Bond Commission recommended approval of Experience Ruston’s application to participate in the U.S. Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (the “Program”). The Program is designed to provide a direct incentive to keep workers on payroll. Funds can be used to pay for payroll costs, including benefits, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs related to COVID19, uninsured property damage costs caused by looting or vandalism during 2020, and certain supplier costs and expenses for operations.
Louisiana’s State Bond Commission said that expectation is that the loans will be fully forgiven if the entity spends the funds within the Program guidelines.
The Program is designed to provide a direct incentive to keep workers on payroll. Funds can be used to pay for payroll costs, including benefits, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs related to COVID19, uninsured property damage costs caused by looting or vandalism during 2020, and certain supplier costs and expenses for operations.
Experience Ruston’s application letter, submitted by Ruston-Lincoln CVB President and CEO Amanda Quimby Carrier, said the CVB expects to use all of the $50,000 grant funding for payroll expenses and that it expects to maintain its payroll at or above its current level for eight weeks and to use any amounts received pursuant to PPP only for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.
The application letter also stated that any amount received by the applicant pursuant to PPP that is not forgiven shall mature no later than March 31, 2026 at a rate not exceeding 1% and shall be payable from all revenues to be received by the applicant, to the extent such revenues are available to make the payments.
“We still have to turn in the paperwork to start the loan process, but we intend to move forward and do so,” Carrier said.
She said that the timing is perfect as mass COVID-19 vaccinations continue being given and that restrictions caused by the pandemic continue being lessened.
“Things are looking up and we’re ready to begin moving forward,” Carrier said. “We have a smaller Louisiana Peach Fest set for June with a theme of Homegrown and Getting Back to Basics. As things continue getting better we’re hopeful that the second half of the year will be much better.”
Carrier said that the “getting better process” has already started.
“We plan on supporting people who support us,” she said. “The situation regarding travel restrictions is getting better. That will hopefully help bring more people to Ruston in a safe fashion. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring in more people in smaller groups as things open up some. There are a lot of events scheduled for the Ruston Sports Complex, so we’re hopeful that things will continue getting better and we can return to showing more and more visitors how much Ruston has to offer.”
Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ