Coronavirus has caused many to change plans and quickly adapt to the changing landscape. SNAP and its subsidiary SNAP Financial Access (SFA) held a virtual forum earlier in June to provide updates and an inside look at the work being carried out. Fittingly, SFA director, Renee LaRocca, and program director, Karen Campbell, both discussed the changing needs of small businesses and homebuyers and owners.

Where in the past, clients served were predominately those who wanted to start a business or buy a first home, the focus has shifted with the impacts of the coronavirus to also providing aid to existing businesses and homeowners struggling during the pandemic..

“It’s been a challenging time,” said Campbell. “It’s been every single person, hands on deck. We really focused initially on making contact with our clients and checking in on them.”

Across the region, residents have seen even long-standing businesses shut their doors in the wake of coronavirus. Campbell has seen anxiety about the uncertain future pervade through many of SFA’s small business clients. The need for businesses to be nimble and able to quickly pivot business models has exposed disparities in the readiness some businesses have to weather the current storm. The entire team at SNAP and SFA have prepared to help businesses all along the spectrum of readiness through their challenges.

“There’s been a lot of turmoil and difficulty,” says Campbell. “But there have also been bright spots and ‘aha’ moments that clients have experienced amid the pandemic.”

One notable ‘aha’ moment came through collaborative work with the local SNAP-supported business, Tasty Bun. National food delivery apps have been eating into many restaurants’ already slim profit margins. The team at SFA worked on a software solution that connects to Tasty Bun’s Point-of-Sale system to facilitate online ordering and contactless delivery without depending on a national app.

Support for small businesses also extends to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) support. To date, there have been 52 PPP revisions, and the entirety of SFA’s staff has kept up-to-date on each revision so they can accurately advise clients to provide the level of service and expertise SNAP clients are accustomed to receiving.

Staff at SFA have proven this adage true with their extensive work not only to aid businesses through these challenges, but also in preventing foreclosure for homeowners who have been hard-hit by this crisis.

“I think that it’s going to change dramatically in about four months,” said LaRocca.

The SFA Director feels fortunate that SFA has the guidance of a volunteer loan committee that has a combined total of over 230 years of experience. This is helping the teams at SFA to determine when and to what extent they should lower interest rates to remain nimble during this time.

“For residential, we see a lot of clients that are now getting supported by the CARES Act for making their mortgage payments. This is carrying them to the end of July,” said LaRocca. “After that, if people don’t have jobs, they aren’t going to be able to pay their mortgage. That’s where we come in as the only HUD-certified housing counselors this side of the state.”

Underlying the work of SFA are the same standards that apply to all of SNAP: find experts who can provide practical, sustainable assistance to help people become self-sufficient. Long-term success is always the goal. No handouts; just helping hands. Community support helps us in those efforts.