Saco businesses and nonprofits that employ fewer than 500 people may be eligible to apply for up to $10,000 in funding from a city loan fund announced at a recent city council meeting by Mayor William Doyle. Journal Tribune file photo/Liz Gotthelf

SACO — By 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, April 22, about 12 hours after an announcement by Saco Mayor William Doyle that the city was establishing a loan fund for Saco businesses, a dozen had already left messages at the city’s Planning and Development Office.

That was the word from Saco Communications Director Emily Roy following Doyle’s Tuesday, April 21 announcement. She said Planning and Development Director Denise Clavette told her inquiries had come from an array of businesses, including retail merchants, eateries, a photography business, nonprofit organizations, and light manufacturing.

“Saco’s Covid-19 Emergency Loan Fund will offer loans of up to $10,000 for Saco businesses and nonprofits with 500 or less employees. To help support businesses as quickly as possible, the review and application process has been streamlined, all payments will be deferred for six months, and 50 percent of the loan may be forgiven after five years,” Doyle told city councilors, in part.

Funds for the program will come from the City of Saco’s Tax Increment Financing District revenues, and the program will be administered by the Southern Maine Finance Agency.

“In 2019, the City of Saco amended seven of its existing TIF Districts, to include the ability to fund grant and loan programs for businesses in Saco,” Clavette said. “We are pleased to say that the creation of these TIF Districts proactively secured funding for creating a responsive COVID-19 Emergency Loan Fund, for forgivable loans to help Saco businesses and nonprofits through this pandemic.”

City guidelines say businesses may use loan funds for projects like exterior and interior renovations and improvements to meet social distancing guidelines to protect employees and patrons, including curbside pickup, etc.; for fixtures, furniture, and equipment related to Covid-19; working capital including payroll expenses; machinery and equipment; related professional services including architectural, engineering, marketing, advertising, and other fees and costs related to Covid-19 guidelines and requirements.

The maximum loan is $10,000 and must be matched one-to-one by the applicant. Terms are 66 months. At the end of that period, if the loan is paid as agreed, is current and the business has remained open for the five years prior to the loan maturity, 50 percent may be forgiven, according to program requirements on the city’s web page.

The loans cannot be used for real estate acquisition; refinancing of existing debt; payment for the applicant’s own labor; or reimbursement of any project costs incurred prior to the approval of the loan.

Eligibility requirements state, in part, that the applicant must provide proof of ownership and good standing in Maine; must not be in arrears on any personal property or real estate taxes owed to the City of Saco; must produce three years of tax returns and the most recent financial statement; must demonstrate the availability of any matching funds required to complete a project as approved; and must meet the underwriting requirements of the program and otherwise comply with program procedures and requirements by Southern Maine Finance Agency.

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