Sun Belt college sports conference taps Fed loans from Main Street Lending Program

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Sun Belt college sports conference taps Fed loans from Main Street Lending Program,

Months after opening up its emergency loans to nonprofit organizations, the Federal Reserve has officially extended credit to its first borrower, a Division 1 college sports conference.
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If the Sun Belt Conference’s experience with the program is any indication, confusion over the program terms — and tight eligibility requirements — may be preventing more nonprofits from getting a loan of their own.

The Sun Belt Conference tapped the Fed’s Main Street Lending Facility for a $4.4 million loan in early October. With COVID-19 breaking up its athletics schedule, the New Orleans-based Sun Belt turned to its lender to beef up its cash position.

“We don’t really know what’s coming at us and at any times when you have uncertainty, having access to cash is just really important,” Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill told Yahoo Finance.

The conference, like other collegiate leagues, had tapped the Paycheck Protection Program earlier in the year.

The Sun Belt supports the athletics programs for 12 colleges based in the southeast, home to the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Normally, the conference draws revenue from sponsorships, broadcast rights to its games, and distributions from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

That makes the Sun Belt’s Division I football a major revenue stream. Even though the conference only had to push back the start of its football season by a few weeks, the costs of COVID-19 testing and the uncertainty ahead pushed the conference to reach out to First Bank and Trust in mid-June.

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‘Confusing for borrowers’

The Fed announced that it would be launching a novel program to push banks to originate cheap credit as part of its March actions to save the U.S. economy. The Fed worked for months to engineer the Main Street Lending Facility, and underwent several revisions before finally launching for applications in June.

The Fed is still moving the goal posts on the program, having lowered the minimum loan size for the second time just two weeks ago.

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