Incomplete applications. Missing financial information. No city business license.

These are some of the most common mistakes small businesses are making as they apply for financial assistance during the pandemic, according to experts at the Columbia Chamber. They’re sometimes causing delays or denials in funding that businesses desperately need right now.

Tips to avoid those errors were shared Tuesday at an e-meeting of the chamber’s Small Business Breakouts and Northeast Connections groups.

The City of Columbia has helped funnel $4.3 million to 321 businesses so far, but it could be more, panelist Ayesha Driggers with the city’s Office of Business Opportunities told attendees.

“We’ve found many small businesses don’t have the information they need to provide for grant applications,” Driggers said. “We’re planning to offer financial webinars to help small businesses strengthen their financial infrastructure.”

Missing information is also common on grant applications Richland County receives, according to Bryant Davis with the county’s Diplomat program.

“We encourage businesses to contact us for help before submitting applications if they’re not sure how to answer the questions,” Davis said. “Incorrect or incomplete apps are set aside so we can process the complete ones. It’s a lot easier to get it right the first time than to go back and correct it later.”

Some small business owners who’ve received funding are afraid to use it because they aren’t sure what the tax implications will be, or how to request loan forgiveness, the panelists said. They encouraged business owners to review the instructions and loan forgiveness forms the federal government released last week.

The city also plans to offer uniform signage and group decals for small businesses to use to support social distancing as they reopen, help with messaging to encourage physical and emotional health, and other resources.

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