A loan program designed to help small businesses citywide is  launching in Biddeford. The program is funded through the Community Development Block Grant program. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — The city of Biddeford has announced a new  loan program to help businesses retain and create jobs.

Funded through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program, small businesses would be able to apply for up to $12,500 to help them keep or hire low or moderate income workers.

Businesses city wide with up to 20 employees may apply, said Biddeford Economic Development Coordinator Brad Favreau. Businesses challenged by impacts of the coronavirus who did not receive assistance through the federal CARES Act programs are targeted.

“The funds may be used for payroll costs, and in some cases rent and other permissible operating expenses, especially if related to re-opening a business in a socially distant, safe manner,” said Favreau in an email.

“The well-being of our small businesses and their employees is critical to our community,” said Mayor Alan
Casavant. “Unfortunately, many of our local business owners have not been eligible for federal business
assistance programs. We hope this new program can help fill in the gaps and make a difference for those
who are in need of a hand to get through this crisis.”

The Biddeford City Council discussed the measure during a couple of meetings. The program was aimed initially at the downtown and mill district, but councilors made it clear they preferred a city-wide approach.

“I don’t like the idea of picking a particular part of town. I think we need to target the money where we think it has the most impact,” said Councilor Amy Clearwater at the May 19 City Council meeting. “I don’t feel comfortable limiting it to the downtown.”

Other councilors agreed, and the matter was tabled until June 2, when a version that makes businesses eligible city-wide was approved.

Favreau said funds will be available over an eight-week period.

Businesses will have to submit a statement of business disruption and/or revenue loss and explain how CDBG assistance would be used to retain employment of existing staff, he said.

Businesses will be required to complete an application form, at:  www.biddefordmaine.org/jobretention, as well as submit an income statement and at least one year of payroll documentation to substantiate the need. Applications must be submitted by June 22 to be considered for funding. For more information, contact Favreau at: [email protected] or by phone at 284-9115.

Some nearby communities and organizations have also offered loans to businesses — though details of the programs differ from community to community. The City of Saco instituted a program in the latter part of April and more recently, the Kennebunk Development Corporation, a nonprofit agency, announced a business loan program as well.

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