The city of Portland and Greater Portland Council of Governments announced the launch of new emergency business loan and grant programs Tuesday.

The Portland City Council voted Monday to approve three business loan and grant programs designed by the Portland Development Corp. and the city’s economic development department in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The three programs are all intended to assist Portland businesses needing help because of the pandemic. The programs include a business assistance program for job creation and rehiring, a micro-enterprise grant program, and a rapid response micro-loan program.

The business assistance program provides $5,000 in grant funding to small businesses for hiring or rehiring two or more full-time employees. The jobs, which must be filled by low- to moderate-income workers, may include previous employees who were on the payroll as of Jan. 31, or new employees.

The micro-enterprise grant program, targeted to very small businesses with no more than one full-time equivalent employee plus the owner, provides grants of up to $2,500 to existing Portland businesses that have been hurt by the COVID-19 crisis.

The rapid response micro-loan program is targeted to small businesses that had two to eight employees on Jan. 31. It provides loans of up to $10,000, with $5,000 forgiven if 50 percent of employees are hired back within nine months of signing a loan agreement, or six months after stay-at-home or other COVID-19 emergency orders have been lifted for the borrower’s type of business, whichever comes first.

All three business assistance programs will likely be launched on May 19 with applications available on the city’s website that day. The programs will be funded from a variety of sources including $400,000 from the Portland Development Corp.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments also announced Tuesday that it has launched a rapid response micro-loan program to support the region’s small businesses and nonprofits that need working capital amid the outbreak.

Qualifying businesses and organizations are eligible for loans of up to $10,000 at 0 percent interest for the first two years. Portions of the loan may be forgiven if businesses meet certain requirements or participate in other council initiatives, it said.

The agency said it has committed to lending as much as $250,000 through the new program. The loans will supplement existing state and federal small business lending programs offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Finance Authority of Maine.

“These low-cost funds will help viable businesses that need just a little breathing room to weather the COVID-19 storm,” said Josh Kochis, the council’s finance director, in a statement.


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