Housing Dept. concludes Small Business Financing application phase
By John McPhaul
The island Housing Department (DH) has successfully concluded the application process for the Small Business Financing Program (SBF), announcing Sunday that with the total number of applications received, full use of the allocated budget has already been projected.
Under the program, the Housing Dept. will end up distributing over $300 million among micro-entrepreneurs and farmers who benefited from the grant that Puerto Rico received under Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds as part of the recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Likewise, the application phase for the Renacer Agrícola de Puerto Rico (Re-Grow) program also ended.
“This news is very positive for all of Puerto Rico because, following the public policy of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, we managed to receive enough applications under the SBF program and the Re-Grow program for farmers to use the allocated budget,” Housing Secretary William Rodríguez Rodríguez said. “After completing this process, Housing and its sub-recipients will continue to work and grant subsidies to eligible small businesses and farmers in both programs.”
Rodríguez noted that the Economic Development Bank and the Department of Agriculture collaborate with the agency in the administration of the SBF and Re-Grow funds.
“The economy and agriculture are activities that go hand in hand,” he said. “Both are necessary to guarantee well being and a better quality of life for all those who reside in Puerto Rico. Therein lies the importance that these funds have reached our micro-entrepreneurs and farmers.”
The Small Business Financing program, which has an allocation of $225 million, grants up to $150,000 to beneficiary businesses to be used for payroll expenses, purchase of mobile equipment, payment of utilities and operating expenses. Re-grow, for its part, has allocated $92.5 million to offer aid of up to $150,000 for agricultural infrastructure, equipment, supplies, land and vehicles, among other purposes.
To date, the SBF program has provided assistance to nearly 1,800 businesses, providing work for an average of eight employees per business and awarding an average of $43,862 per business. Meanwhile, ReGrow has subsidized the agricultural activities of 144 farmers.
Rodríguez attributed the achievement in granting the grants to the commitment shown by all parties, including Housing employees, micro-entrepreneurs and the agricultural industry since the launch of both programs came at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The funds were available, but so was the challenge of the pandemic,” the official said. “Without the commitment, the outreach efforts, and the assistance of the members of each industry, it would not have been possible to grant the aid.”
The application period for both programs ended on April 14 and was available from March 2020 for SBF and August 2020 for Re-Grow.
Rodríguez said the Housing Department still has money available from other CDBG-DR programs, such as Direct Assistance to the Buyer, which grants incentives for the purchase of a home.