Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville

April 16, 2020 | Paycheck Protection Program Loan Stories

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) turning daily life and work upside down, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville e recognized its daily outreach was even more critical. Across the nonprofit, every department contributed to a new mission statement to guide it through this pandemic. Habitat serves 2,000 families; half of those have lost their job or part of their income.

At the top of the list is to finish and hand the keys of 10 near-complete homes over to residents. “We still have families in desperate living conditions – and they need a home,” says John Desmond, CFO and vice president for operations. That includes continuing to help families already in process to secure a mortgage.

Construction progress is steady but slowed, since volunteers, which total 4,000 in a year, no longer can help on site. To maintain social distancing, only two workers can be in a home at one time, and they are outfitted in full protective gear. “On the human side, our people are on the ground, working harder than ever,” he said.

Habitat has its primary relationship with a major national bank, which still wasn’t accepting applications two weeks after PPP opened. His banker there advised Desmond to go elsewhere, and he turned to VCC, where Habitat has also had a long relationship. The VCC loan process “was a beautiful thing,” he said. The application was handled by email and phone. “Because we were already a customer, we moved to the head of the line. [Loan officer] Bill Greenleaf called me every day of the process and gave me an update. The process couldn’t have been any smoother.”

Keeping staffing above 75 percent at the time of the PPP loan will be a condition for forgiveness. Stay-at-home orders meant Habitat Charlottesville had to close its 20,000-square-foot store, leaving 10 employees without a job – and shutting down $1.3 million in annual sales that pays the $15,000 monthly rent and funds the mission. Beyond the store, the nonprofit employs another 45 people, builds homes, and managing a 341-unit trailer park.

By both deferring some hiring decisions and creatively recasting team members, Habitat has been able to keep everyone on the payroll. “This money will help us pay our employees who are not fully tasked with working 40 hours a week,” he said, noting that Habitat is loaning those employees – with their permission – to assist other local nonprofits, including delivery at Meals on Wheels and offering to do phone intakes for The United Way’s emergency relief fund.

“There’s a lot of connectiveness that is coming out of the nonprofit community here,” he says, “which is good.”