Small businesses are important to Leavenworth and the state of Kansas, according to the director of a regional small business development office.

“They are super important,” said Will Katz, director of the University of Kansas Small Business Development Center.

Katz said small businesses are responsible for more than 60% of employment in Kansas. And small businesses typically are responsible for between 90-100% of new job growth in the state.

Katz spoke Wednesday about challenges facing small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. His comments came during a virtual town hall meeting hosted by Leavenworth Mayor Mike Griswold.

Griswold hosted the meeting from Leavenworth City Hall. Katz participated in the meeting using an online videoconferencing service.

“This is a really difficult time, a stressful time,” Katz said.

As a community, people need to work hard to get as many small businesses through at least the beginning of a recovery process as possible.

He said existing small businesses are “tried-and-true” and their owners are the most experienced people at doing things such as creating jobs and managing a workforce.

Katz discussed a couple of federal loan programs available to small business owners, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Payroll Protection Program.

“Many people have a lot of questions about them,” he said.

He said the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program has been around a long time. The PPP is a new program that was created as part of a federal stimulus plan.

Elements of a PPP loan may be forgiven.

“I wouldn’t call it a grant because it really is not,” he said.

Katz said people need patience as they attempt to utilize these programs. He said small business owners may wondering why it is taking so long for them to get help.

“Everybody wishes you would be helped faster,” he said.

He said the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program became oversubscribed really fast. And in the case of the PPP, he said it is “hard to roll out a brand new program like that.”

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR