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New aid open to business owners struggling to recover from COVID-19

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BATON ROUGE – A new $1.1 million loan is now available for small businesses in the capital region. The funds will be focusing on those who are still struggling to recover from COVID-19.

“We are really coming up with viable solutions to help the small business community,” Kim Carter Evans said.

Evans works for TruFund Financial Services: a national nonprofit that seeks to stimulate economic development in communities that are underserved by traditional banking institutions.

TruFund is partnering with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber in providing the funding. Each business owner approved could get up to $250,000 for working capital, contract financing, inventory, marketing and business development.

“These dollars will remain in the community almost evergreen. Once a business accesses this capital and pays it back, those dollars are available to help the next business,” Evans said.

New business owner Khaliel Kinchen knows how hard it is to open up a store during a pandemic.

“We came up with the idea three years ago, the market was supposed to be open last August, but it took a year and three months,” Kinchen said.

Almost a month ago, Kinchen and his family opened up the Scenic Market near Gracie Street after facing some obstacles.

“The IRS couldn’t get back to us dealing with a lot of people, we couldn’t go into the banks and had to deal with a lot over the phone,” Kinchen said.

Now that he has his dream of opening up a food market in the neighborhood he grew up in, he says the chance of getting some extra aid will help. He doesn't want to give up on providing the service he knows his community needs.

“A lot of people travel by foot or by bike so they don't have to ride a mile or a mile and half anymore they can come here we have groceries, we have household items, we have condiments," Kinchen said.

The money for the revolving loan fund is coming from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which provides both short and long-term financing. Any business owner in East Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes can apply. The loans will have terms extending from 6 to 60 months with interest rates between 0 to 10 percent depending on the loan product.

“This is a game-changer for small business access to capital in the Baton Rouge Area,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “The success of the Baton Rouge Area economy is directly linked to the success of the small business community, particularly the ability for small businesses to start up and scale-up. Access to capital is fundamental to small business success, yet is often cited as one of the most significant growth challenges. We are excited to be announcing this RLF today to make loans to businesses that typically otherwise would not have access to traditional bank financing.”

Small businesses interested in applying for a loan through the RLF may contact TruFund Business Development Officers Jay Gaudet at jgaudet@trufund.org or Juan Nathan at jnathan@trufund.org. Small businesses can also call the TruFund Louisiana office line at (504) 293-5550 or visit trufund.org. BRAC and TruFund will seek local lending partners to assist in connecting regional business owners with funding opportunities.

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