LEBANON, VA – APRIL 16, 2020Loan funding of up to $740,000 to help offset the negative economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses in the coalfield region and at the Breaks Interstate Park was approved Thursday during a special called meeting of the board of the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA). Up to $590,000 of the funding will be loaned to the eight county and city industrial and economic development authorities in the VCEDA region for distribution to local businesses impacted by COVID-19 in their respective communities. Also approved was up to a $150,000 loan to the Breaks Interstate Park, whose operations have also been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

“VCEDA was approached by all the county/city industrial and economic development authorities in the VCEDA region seeking loan funds from each of their respective county/city VCEDA accounts to be able to re-loan those funds to local businesses which have been negatively impacted and/or forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic in their respective localities,” said Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA executive director/general counsel. “It was expressed to VCEDA that the situation is very dire and that if something is not done to assist these local businesses, many of them may go under and never re-open.”

The vote to approve the loan funds to each of the industrial development authorities/economic development authorities (IDAs/EDAs) in the VCEDA region was unanimous. The IDAs and EDAs will work with the local businesses in their respective communities to provide the funds as loans to businesses which have been negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic. Impacted local businesses may contact their local IDA/EDA office for further information.

“I think today’s vote by the VCEDA Board demonstrates their commitment and VCEDA’s commitment and responsiveness to the needs of the region during this time of crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Belcher said. “As soon as we were aware of the need, the board and staff of VCEDA quickly got a plan of action in place and implemented it. The coal and natural gas industries in the region, which are the primary funders of VCEDA through the severance taxes they pay, are also to be thanked for their role in helping to provide these funds.”

The funds approved to the industrial and economic development authorities, which were approved by the VCEDA board at the amounts requested by each, were as follows: $100,000 each to the Buchanan, Dickenson, Tazewell and Wise County IDAs; $75,000 to the Russell County IDA; $50,000 to the Scott County EDA; $40,000 to the City of Norton IDA; and $25,000 to the Lee County EDA.

Also approved was an up to $150,000 loan requested by the Breaks Interstate Park to be used to assist with operating costs of the park in order to help it remain open and for the development of infrastructure and improvements at the park to continue.

The funds for the Breaks Park come from the Civil Penalties Fund established by the Virginia legislature and collected by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME). The code requires DMME to transfer 50 percent of the civil penalties funds it collects to VCEDA specifically to be used for the Breaks Interstate Park.

Belcher noted the Breaks Interstate Park indicated it is in dire need of supplemental operating funds due to the negative economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the park. The park indicated that without assistance, it would run out of funds in the coming weeks and has already been forced to furlough all but five employees.

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in what the park referenced as massive cancellations of lodging reservations, requiring the park to return deposit fees.

“We are hopeful that the actions taken today by the VCEDA board will assist in providing some relief to area businesses through our local IDAs/EDAs, and to the Breaks Interstate Park, as we all work together through this current crisis,” Belcher said.

About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vaceda.org  or www.e-Region.org.