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Federal business assistance extends beyond riot damage

Federal business assistance extends beyond riot damage

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Funds from the federal government flowing into Baltimore are aimed at helping more than  just the roughly 380 Baltimore businesses damaged in April’s riots recover.

On Friday, during a news conference at City Hall, Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, touted the money that is immediately available to help organizations damaged in the riot. Those funds include a $1.25 million micro-loan program with $800,000 directed specifically toward city businesses through Maryland Capital Enterprises — if that entity can raise 15 percent in matching funds.

The administration has already been helping businesses apply for low interest loans since the unrest subsided.

“These funds are available immediately. We’re ready to roll,” Contreras-Sweet said.

But federal funds, and other forms of assistance, are also being extended to more than just the businesses damaged in the riots over the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries he suffered while in Baltimore Police Department custody.

Government Contracting Business Development will be using Maryland-based consultant Quality Compliance Management Inc. to provide $100,000 in educational and technical support to small businesses in obtaining federal contracts. It’s also been determined the Maryland Small Business Development Center is eligible for $253,308 in supplemental funding during the next 15 months.

There are also outreach programs for startups, such as a planned caucus of accelerators and incubators in Baltimore to discuss the SBA’s Accelerator Competition, and the Small Business Investment Co. will also hold a roundtable with money managers, private equity firms, and encourage investment in Baltimore small businesses.

“I really think it provides unbridled opportunity and I would hope that people wouldn’t put a limitation on themselves, but rather find that this presents unbridled opportunity to succeed and to grow,” Contreras-Sweet said.

The latest round of aid and assistance comes on top of efforts by the Baltimore Development Corp., which has launched the Baltimore Recovery Fund with the goal of $15 million to help enterprises damaged by the riots and their aftermath. Once that goal is reached the corporation intends to offer zero percent interest loans up to $35,000. The quasi-governmental agency also rolled out a storefront recovery grant program that gives businesses up to $5,000 to repair property damage to the exterior of a building.

The amount of damage done to city businesses, in terms of dollars, has yet to be determined. Earlier this week, officials said a widely reported $9 million figure was inaccurate. The amount of claims made through insurance won’t be known until August, when the Maryland Insurance Administration releases its final tally.

Rep. John Sarbanes, who attended the news conference with Rep. Elijah Cummings, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Ben Cardin, framed the assistance as a way to help the city’s economy recover in a way that won’t leave some residents behind. He also described the federal assistance and attention in the wake of the riots as a vote of confidence in Baltimore and not a handout.

“They’re coming here is an expression of confidence in Baltimore. That’s what people need to understand,” Sarbanes said. “This is not a mercy mission, this is not charity. This is an expression of confidence in if you bring tools and investment and resources to all the people of Baltimore City, this city will move forward and be stronger.”

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