The Finance Authority of Maine will offer emergency financial assistance to Maine businesses crippled by the sudden economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The quasi-independent state agency has set aside $15 million to assist companies with lending insurance and direct, low-interest loans. The agency estimates it can help about 300 small businesses in Maine.

It also will offer bridge financing for companies that have qualified for emergency loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Businesses can apply on its website.

The authority’s board of directors unanimously approved the measures Thursday and committed one-third of the agency’s reserves to the program, said FAME CEO Bruce Wagner.

“Other than the decision to commit a significant part of reserves, it is an extension of what we have always done, but on steroids,” said Wagner.

Lenders can now access 50 percent to 75 percent insurance from FAME for loans to businesses economically impacted by the coronavirus. That means the agency will partially back risky loans up to $100,000 that banks and credit unions might not otherwise approve. The agency has put aside $10 million for the insurance program.


“What we have done at the 50 percent level is that we are going to accept that much much higher level of risk,” Wagner said.

FAME also has allocated $5 million for direct $50,000 loans to small businesses at below-prime rates of about 2.75 percent. The loans will have relaxed underwriting standards and flexible repayment plans, it said.

“We will be working liberally to make sure that direct money gets out,” Wagner said.

The SBA on Monday approved emergency loans of up to $2 million for companies and nonprofits hurt during the pandemic. FAME will offer bridge payments of up to $100,000 on approved SBA loans so businesses can access cash right away, while waiting for money from the federally backed loan to come in.

The agency also is working with its current customers to modify loans and offer flexible payments.

Maine lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that offers $500,000 to back a voluntary consumer lending program through banks and credit unions. The new program can provide multiple loans of up to $5,000 to ordinary Mainers affected by the coronavirus.

Considering the widespread impacts felt by workers and businesses across the state, the initial measures may not go far enough. Banks and credit unions are offering flexibility to borrowers, and Maine’s congressional delegation is working to bring in more relief, Wagner said.

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