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New small-business loans announced in wake of Baltimore unrest

The federal government announced $1 million in loans and forms of assistance to Baltimore businesses after unr

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced Friday it would make up to $1 million available in loans and other forms of assistance for small businesses in Baltimore in the wake of rioting and unrest.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the SBA, announced the new programs at a news conference at City Hall, flanked by Sen. Ben Cardin, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and members of Baltimore's congressional delegation.

The city has estimated that 380 businesses were damaged in the civil unrest from April 25 to May 3. Rawlings-Blake said that while most have reopened, some are still "not at full capacity."

The mayor said the SBA designated the additional funding at her request.

Officials said the assistance includes up to $800,000 for "microloans" to small businesses, and grants of $100,000 apiece to two community development organizations to provide training and technical assistance to help small-business owners apply for loans.

"These funds are absolutely critical as small businesses work to reopen and to rebuild," Rawlings-Blake said. "We know that Baltimore is stronger than this moment, but we won't have our history defined by violence. Rather, we will be defined by how we come together, how we rebuild and how we grow stronger than ever."

The SBA's microloan program allows loans up to $50,000, though the average loan size is $13,000. The short-term loans can be used for working capital or the purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery or equipment.

Contreras-Sweet said the loans were intended to help strengthen the city's small-business community overall, not just those affected by the unrest.

She said the program would "address the hardships and hopelessness that fueled [the unrest], in a long-term systemic way."

The $800,000 microloan program and $100,000 grant for training will be managed by Maryland Capital Enterprises, a small-business lender. The other $100,000 grant will be managed by the community development arm of Harbor Bank, a minority-owned bank based in Baltimore.

Contreras-Sweet said the administration also would host roundtable discussions over the summer with "Baltimore's innovators" on how to help the city's small businesses.

More than $250,000 also will be set aside as supplemental funding for the Maryland Small Business Development Center over 15 months.

The SBA previously approved Gov. Larry Hogan's request for a "disaster declaration" for Baltimore, allowing the agency to offer low-interest loans to rebuild businesses and homes damaged during the unrest.

The agency opened two outreach centers — at the Pennsylvania Avenue branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library at 1531 W. North Ave., near the site of some of the worst destruction; and at the Southeast Anchor library, 3601 Eastern Ave.

cwells@baltsun.com

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