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To Some Idahoans, Emergency Loans are "COVID Relief"

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An undisclosed donor is helping the organization Economic Opportunity offer 50 people in Idaho emergency personal loans. (Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe Stock)
An undisclosed donor is helping the organization Economic Opportunity offer 50 people in Idaho emergency personal loans. (Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe Stock)
January 15, 2021

BOISE, Idaho - While there may be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, many Idahoans still face big financial challenges. One organization offering emergency personal loans to people in the Treasure Valley and Twin Falls areas says it's been hard to keep up with demand.

Economic Opportunity Director Kate Nelson said the group was going to have to put people on a waitlist this month, but an undisclosed donor has made it possible to offer loans to up to 50 additional people.

"We have had some folks that are business owners come to us and say, 'Can we get an emergency personal loan in order to cover personal expenses, like rent and their mortgage, and car repairs and that sort of thing?'" said Nelson. "Because they really are trying to patch things together."

A new round of federal Paycheck Protection Program loans has opened up for small businesses, which can start applying today through small banks and credit unions.

But Nelson said so far, the Idahoans she works with haven't been interested in the program. She said many found it hard or impossible to apply for the first round of funds.

Economic Opportunity lends to underserved Idahoans, including lower-income seniors, people experiencing homelessness or recovering from substance abuse. Nelson said despite lenders who might consider these folks risky, the program has an exceptionally high repayment rate - about 98%.

"It's very humbling to be a part of this project" said Nelson. "And see how such a small amount of money can restore dignity and make people feel like they're trusted."

Nelson added many factors were contributing to an economic division in this country before the pandemic, and she fears that people who are considered working poor will fall further behind, even as the economy recovers.

"Unless we change things from a policy perspective and support our current safety net programs and expand them" said Nelson, "this is going to last for a very, very long time."

Disclosure: Economic Opportunity by Jannus contributes to our fund for reporting on Early Childhood Education, Poverty Issues, Social Justice, Women's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID