DENVER — A Colorado program to provide relief to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to kick off next month.
The program was created by House Bill 1006 during the legislature’s 2020 regular session and then modified to make it more attractive to lenders during last month's special session.
“This is targeted for small businesses that were actually doing well before the pandemic, and certainly we know that many of them have struggled mightily since then,” said Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young.
The CLIMBER Loan Fund Program will offer $250 million in loans for small businesses that employ between five and 100 employees.
Of those funds, $50 million will come from the state and the other $200 million will come from donors and others.
Since June, an advisory board has met regularly to discuss the program’s startup. The state will make up its portion of the loan funding by selling premium tax credits.
Young says the advisory board was able to finish up some of those tax credit sales Tuesday.
“We’re really trying to provide working capital to small businesses that really want to stand their business back up,” he said. “We know small businesses are really a big driver of our economy here in Colorado and so everything we can do to support them is really important.”
Businesses will be able to apply for loans of between $30,000 and $500,000 through the program.
Minority, women and veteran-owned businesses will be given priority to receive the loans. Young anticipates that the average loan will be around $100,000.
The owner of Orange Theory Fitness in Belmar, Nina Newcomb, is looking forward to the program. Newcomb runs four gyms in the area and says they were doing well before the pandemic hit in March.
The gyms were then closed down for three months before being allowed to reopen with limited capacities.
“At this point we’re just hanging on. We’re just hanging on and trying to take care of our staff and our members,” Newcomb said.
Newcomb was able to successfully apply for a PPP loan through the federal government, but the process was complicated, she said, and the money ran out quickly.
In order to make ends meet, Newcomb hasn’t been taking any pay since March and the staff had to take pay cuts as well.
“To even have to think about shutting down is just heartbreaking,” she said. “I can’t give up. I’m going to keep trying for my staff and for my members.”
She’s looking forward to the new round of loans for Colorado businesses and says it could help them make ends meet in the short-term.
“We’re trying to hang on and – literally – we’re trying to claw our way out of this, so any help we get, we're appreciative of,” Newcomb said.
Businesses will be able to start applying for the loans in early January. The programs will roll out as soon as they are available in $50 million chunks and will be administered through the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.
However, the only way Newcomb says she will be able to survive in the long run is for the capacity caps to be lifted.
“The capacity thing, especially the most recent one to 10%, it’s practically a death sentence for small businesses. You can’t survive off of 10% capacity,” she said.
The advisory board for the CLIMBER program is set to meet Thursday once again to discuss the tax credit sales and the roll out of the program.