SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Santa Clara County small businesses have a new lifeline to ring in the New Year — a low-interest loan program of up to $100,000 now available for qualifying establishments.

The loan program, proposed by county Supervisors Joe Simitian and Susan Ellenberg, provides three- or five-year term options with a 4.25 percent interest rates for small businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees.

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Qualifying businesses also require revenues of under $2.5 million in 2019 and at least a 25 percent reduction in revenues compared to a prior one-year period, among other guidelines.

The loan program is designed to quickly provide financial support. Approved applicants can get their money as soon as two to three weeks after submitting their application.

“These funds are available now and are relatively easy to apply for,” Simitian said. “I know people are hurting, and these funds are a step in the right direction.”

The program is possible through a partnership with state entity California Rebuilding Fund, which drives capital from private, philanthropic and public sector resources to Community Development Financial Institutions to facilitate loans to local small businesses.

“We need all the state and federal help we can get, but by using these local dollars as well we can make sure local businesses and their employees make their way to the top of the list,” Simitian said.

In December, the county invested $6 million to the fund’s initial $25 million package to provide for the county’s small businesses affected by the pandemic.

Simitian, who said he will push for an additional investment at the Jan. 12 Board of Supervisors meeting, noted that he was drawn to this particular partnership because repayment is “largely guaranteed.”

At least 95 percent of loans will be returned, regardless of loan performance, according to Simitian’s office.

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He also noted that the rapid funds allow money to be “loaned again and again, multiplying the impact of the county’s participation over time.”

The recycled investment of county dollars could eventually fund $100 million in small business loans, Simitian said.

“In that way, I think we can be both bold and prudent at the same time,” Simitian said.

Luz Urrutia, CEO of the nonprofit Accion Opportunity Fund, said this program would especially help businesses owned by people of color, immigrants and women, who “most of which have been left behind by federal relief efforts.”

“Small businesses have been the driving force behind every economic recovery, including leading the way out of the Great Recession,” Urrutia said. “They can do it again, but not without an intentional effort to reach and support them.”

The launch of the Santa Clara County fund is one of three other resources available to hurting small businesses.

The state of California launched a $500 million COVID-19 relief grant program to provide grants of up to $25,000 to underserved small businesses and nonprofits. To learn more visit: https://business.ca.gov/.

The state Legislature also approved the Main Street hiring tax credit in September to provide credit equal to $1,000 per qualified employee and up to $100,000 for qualifying small business employers. More information can be found at https://www.cdtfa.ca.gov/taxes-and-fees/SB1447-tax-credit.htm.

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To learn more or apply for the Santa Clara County small business loan program, people can visit caloanfund.org.