PORTLAND — The Portland Development Corporation, with council approval this week, has set up three loan programs to help small businesses in the city retain or rehire employees as the governor’s state reopening plan goes into effect.

The three loan programs “are designed to complement available federal and state emergency loan assistance,” according to Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell.

The COVID-19 Rapid Response Microloan program will loan businesses of between two and eight employees up to $10,000, said Portland Development Corporation Treasurer Blaine Grimes. Half of that loan would be forgiven if at least 50% of employees are retained for a certain amount of time, she said. The loan, which may be used for rent, utilities, inventory, payroll and other expenses to maintain or restart operations, is funded through $400,000 in available Portland Development Corporation funding.

The Business Assistance Program, Grimes said, would make $5,000 available for Portland businesses with up to two employees to use for job creation or job retention. The hope of the Portland Development Corporation Board is for the business to rehire two full-time employees within nine months of signing the grant agreement or six months after the stay-at-home order has ended. Money could also be used for capital expenses, consulting services or training.

The third program, the Microenterprise Grant Program, would provide up to $2,500 in financial support to Portland businesses that have fewer than two full-time employees. To qualify, the business owner must have a low to moderate income and must, according to the city, “demonstrate the need for grant funds to keep the business open and operating, or demonstrate the need for the grant funds to maintain the business’ leased space until the business reopens once the COVID-19 crisis has subsided.”

The Business Assistance and Microenterprise programs, Mitchell said, are funded through community block grants the city has received.

The loans are available only to owners of Portland businesses. Councilor Belinda Ray said city residents who own businesses outside Portland can receiving similar financial support through Greater Portland Council of Governments’ separate rapid response loan program.

“We look forward to seeing the positive impacts of all these programs,” said Councilor Justin Costa, chairman of the council’s Economic Development Committee.

Joe Marro, director of advocacy for the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is also “encouraged” by the three loan programs.

“We are excited to make the funds available to businesses that need it,” he said.

George Rheault, a resident of West Bayside, said he would like to see regular updates from the council in terms of how the programs are going and who is receiving funding.

“I think it is important for us to have some accountability,” he said.

Mayor Kate Snyder thanked the Portland Development Corporation for starting these loan programs. The Portland Development Corporation has been supporting economic development initiatives in the city since 1991.

“Folks in the community are very eager for any additional support they can seek,” she said prior to joining councilors in approving the loan programs.

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