Terry Stokes

Terry Stokes, Yoakum EDC director

None of us will ever forget 2020, nor will we miss it.

Our region certainly suffered setbacks in 2020. All across the Golden Crescent, our small businesses especially struggled to stay afloat, not least during the months of shelter-in-place and later the months of restricted capacity.

And yet, we are now well into 2021, and yes, it’s been a bit of a rocky start to the new year. But don’t lose hope.

By now, individuals should have received the stimulus check associated with the federal relief package passed in December.

Congress also passed a new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding to the tune of $284 billion. The Small Business Administration (SBA) began accepting applications for some of those funds on Jan. 13. I have been encouraging our businesses here in Yoakum to apply as soon as possible, even if they received a PPP loan in 2020. New and previous recipients can apply at:

https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program/second-draw-ppp-loans

And let me take this opportunity to encourage all small businesses across the Crossroads to submit an application to participate in this round of PPP funding if it makes tax sense for your company to do so. Please consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisers before proceeding.

Additionally, on Jan. 14, President Joe Biden unveiled the details of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Titled the American Rescue Plan, the package includes: funding for additional direct payments to most Americans, increased unemployment benefits, an increase in the federal minimum wage, extensions on eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, state and local aid, and aid for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education.

At the local level, my economic development counterparts across the region and I are in conversations with our respective leadership about whether to revive the various emergency relief programs conducted last spring and summer. These are not easy decisions. Unlike the federal government, at the local level, we cannot print our own money. To help fund our emergency program last spring here in Yoakum, we made the difficult decision to shift all of the funds that we had allocated for our regular grants over to the emergency relief grants. That eliminated our ability to provide financial assistance to start-up businesses, existing businesses wishing to expand, or businesses looking to relocate to Yoakum. Making the decision to do that again, like I said, is not an easy decision.

Yes, 2020 was rough. And yes, we’re still in the throes of a pandemic. But vaccines are being distributed in ever-increasing numbers. And very slowly but surely the economy is rebounding. As I said before, we must maintain our hope. And we must remember that God is not up in heaven, looking down, and yelling out, “Oops, I had no idea a pandemic was going to break out in 2020.” No, our Lord has never uttered the word, “Oops,” and he never will. And as bad as 2020 was and as shaky as 2021 has started, his promise that he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him, to those who are called according to his purpose will forever hold true. And in his name, we will hope.

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Terry Stokes is the executive director of the Yoakum Economic Development Corporation and the chair of the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission’s Regional Economic Development Advisory Committee. Contact him at tstokes@cityofyoakum.org.

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