Winneshiek County Development and Tourism (WCDT) has teamed up with a variety of partners to launch the Small Business Helpline and has recently expanded to help business owners, nonprofits and self-proprietors navigate the application process for federal, state and local funding.
Business owners may call 563-588-3350 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday
through Friday, or email at sbhelpline@nicc.edu.
This effort is in partnership with Northeast Iowa Community College, Greater Dubuque Development Corporation (GDDC), Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the East Central Iowa Intergovernmental Association.
“Our local SBDC counselors are here to help business owners, contracted workers, CEOs and employees pull through and offer guidance wherever needed. This continues to be an innovative partnership and initiative to support businesses in Northeast Iowa,” said Stephanie Fromm, executive director of Winneshiek County Development and Tourism.
“As a counselor on this helpline, I’ve been able to talk people through which program fits their business needs best. We can also make sure they have links to the applications and what financial information they need to put together ahead of time,” said Angela Leuenberger, small business counselor.
Trained experts from the organizations will help guide businesses, nonprofit leaders and self-proprietors seeking assistance through the programs including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by Congress on March 27, 2020, which is intended to assist business owners with their needs during the COVID-19 emergency. Many new resources are now available for all businesses with less than 500 employees, including the following:
• Payment Protection Program (PPP) Loans that will provide cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally-guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency.
• Small Business Debt Relief Program that provides immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster Small Business Administration (SBA) loans; in particular 7(a), 504, and microloans.
• Economic Injury Disaster Loans & Emergency Economic Injury Grants (EIDL). These grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).
• Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which is legislation that requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

200 businesses
Since launching the Business Helpline on March 25, experts with the Business Helpline assisted more than 200 businesses in navigating the application process, answering questions and guiding them to programs relevant to their business.
"I've talked to dozens of business owners in the past few weeks, and the bottom line is that we are all affected, and just talking about the issues and concerns can help,” said Kristine Jepsen, small business counselor. “My goal is to keep up with state and federal program guidelines and get the information out to businesses as quickly as possible. Please call us, and we'll connect you with what you need."
“Being able to guide folks to the correct information is great with the goal of directing them to these financial resources,” said Josh Dansdill, small business counselor. “I think it has provided an incredible opportunity for small business owners to speak with an actual person, vent their frustration, tell their story, and overall feel like their voice is being heard. We are all overwhelmed by the situation COVID-19 is causing locally, nationally and worldwide, but being allowed to tell their story for just a few minutes can actually make a difference.”
In addition to these newly-approved federal programs, the Business Helpline is still available to assist and guide businesses on state initiatives.
“The team has been instrumental in the implementation of this helpline in order to assist our community. The Helpline is ensuring all businesses have guidance and assistance in understanding the financial resources they need to help them during this difficult time,” said Wendy Mihm-Herold, NICC vce president of Business and Community Solutions.
“Helping our local businesses research and complete financial assistance programs is important in helping retain our businesses through this crisis. Economic development isn’t just about bringing in new businesses, it’s about making sure our local economy has what it needs to succeed,” Fromm added.