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Bakersfield launches new loan-to-grant business recovery program

The city of Bakersfield unveiled a new, $1.9 million program Friday designed to help local small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic by offering forgivable loans of up to $50,000 based on the size of their payroll.

Applications for the new ReStart Loan-to-Grant Program will be accepted online starting at 8 a.m. Monday. Qualified recipients must be located within city limits, have 25 or fewer full-time employees and report annual revenues of no more than $2 million, among other requirements.

The program is at least the third wave of pandemic relief money offered by the city. It is funded by federal Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus money.

Demand for the money will likely be strong because small businesses have, for a variety of reasons, had a harder time getting financial relief during the crisis, said Kelly Bearden, director of Cal State Bakersfield's Small Business Development Center.

"It's another tool in the ol' shed," he said.

The city said applications are expected to be accepted until Nov. 30 or until the new fund is depleted. It said businesses receiving money through the program may spend it on salaries, operating costs, insurance, rent, supplies or utilities.

The loans will be forgiven if recipients are still operating 12 months after they receive the money, according to guidelines released Friday. In the meantime, they must pay interest-only payments of 3 percent every month.

Not-for-profit businesses are not eligible and neither are churches, lending establishments or businesses related to gambling or adult entertainment.

Individual businesses are limited to a single loan and the amount is calculated as $2,500 per employee.

The program will be administered by Access Plus Capital, an arm of Fresno Community Development Financial Institution.

Last month the city launched a separate ReStart program specifically targeting micro-enterprises. It provided a total of $70,000 in grants ranging from $3,500 to $5,000 each for businesses with five or fewer full-time employees.

Previously, the city's B-Cares program, also funded through federal sources, gave nearly $6 million to 938 businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Application information for the ReStart Loan-to-Grant program is available by calling Access Plus Capital at (661) 448-2133, or Bakersfield's Women's Business Center: (661) 567-0410. Information is also available online at https://www.accesspluscapital.com/covid-relief/.