(Host) A special state program to help businesses affected by last month’s floods has given out nearly a million dollars in low interest loans to roughly 50 businesses.
And, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the state hopes to loan out another $3 million dollars in the next few weeks.
(Kinzel) There’s still a musty smell in the air as you climb down the wooden stairs to the basement of Capital Stationers in Montpelier.
Kent Bigglestone is a co-owner of the business that his family started 60 years ago. He describes going down the stairs late last month when torrential rain caused massive flooding in central Vermont.
(Bigglestone) "This is basically as far as I got – we’re about five steps before we hit down in the basement but it was flowing in I had to peak around the corner and it sounded just like a waterfall just coming down and we have 3 pumps in our basement. They were all working but the water was just coming in faster than the pumps could work. We have a little compact refrigerator down here you could see it actually floating in the water down here. "
(Host) Back in his office, Bigglestone says the new state loan program has been a lifeline for his business. He says his store lost roughly $20,000 in inventory when the basement flooded, and it cost another $4- to $5,000 to clean up the mess. He didn’t have any flood insurance.
Under the state program, businesses are eligible for up to a $25,000 low interest loan with no interest or payments during the first year.
The state promised a simple application process and a quick turnaround period for the loans. Bigglestone says both promises were kept.
(Bigglestone) "I spent 10 minutes filling out the paperwork. It wasn’t like this 30 page thing like you normally do when you close loans and what not. I think we started like a week before and then when up to the office, assigned a couple of pages and the next thing you know here’s the check to get your business back going again."
(Host) The loan program is being administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority. Jo Bradley is the chief executive officer of VEDA. She thinks the program is working well.
(Bradley) "From what I’m hearing from our customers they have been very glad to get this money and it’s helped them very quickly. They may need to do some other things in the future to help their businesses but this has been something that they could get right away."
(Host) Bradley says VEDA’s underwriting guidelines were less stringent for this program but she says that’s because it was critical to distribute this money as quickly as possible.
(Bradley) "These people deserve our faith now because nobody’s going to come and borrow money just to borrow money. They’re going to borrow money because they need it, so when they told us that they had to clean their basement or whatever we didn’t have time to go and check, and yes we took that on faith from them."
(Host) Bradley says the deadline for applying for the loan program is July 15th and she says the program still has several million dollars available.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.