Small businesses in Cumberland County will be able to access forgivable loans to pay employees and expenses through a new program administered by the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

A job program to hire and retain employees and a micro-enterprise program to assist business owners is funded through a Community Development Block Grant from the county government.

“As summer draws to a close, many small business are confronting a long, cold winter, and we hope these programs contribute to viable solutions for even the smallest of businesses,” Andrew Butcher, director of innovation and resilience at the council, said in a statement.

Businesses that have 25 or fewer employees can access loans of up to $10,000 – or $2,500 per job for up to four jobs. The loans are forgivable if they are used to hire, retain or create jobs for low- or moderate-income residents.

Businesses that have five or fewer employees, including the owner, can access micro-enterprise loans of up to $5,000 that are forgivable if spent on eligible expenses including lease or mortgage, utility, debt repayment, payroll and inventory.

The loan programs are available to companies in Cumberland County except for Portland, Bridgton and Brunswick. To be eligible, applicants and workers must be county residents outside the three excepted communities and earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income.

The Greater Portland Council of Governments will hold a webinar to answer questions about the program at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

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