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New law expands access to small business loan program

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Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – Colorado's loan program for small businesses is expanding under a new bill signed into law recently by Governor Jared Polis.

The bill, known as the Colorado Loans for Increasing Main Street Business Economic Recovery (CLIMBER) Act, makes several amendments to the current CLIMBER program like lowering the minimum loan amount from $30,000 to $10,000, clarifying the benchmarks needed to secure a loan, and extending the issuing period through fiscal year 2023-2024. 

The bill, signed into law on Friday, also allows the Colorado Department of Treasury to provide $40 million to the state's Small Business Loan Recovery cash fund.

“As we are moving into the ‘new normal’ phase of the COVID health pandemic, the economic crisis persists,” state Treasurer Dave Young said in a statement. “After speaking with hundreds of small businesses across the state, we’re expanding access to the CLIMBER program, making it easier for more small businesses to qualify. Now, more business owners will be able to take advantage of this opportunity, climbing their way to economic recovery.”

Small businesses in the state suffered economic setbacks because of the pandemic. According to an online data tracker from Harvard University, more than 38 percent of the state’s small businesses closed just over 12 months into the pandemic. 

In response, state lawmakers passed a series of bills aimed at reducing the financial burden that existing businesses face. Polis signed a bill in February that allowed small businesses to keep more of their sales tax remittances. 

The Colorado secretary of state’s office also backed a bill that transferred $17 million from the general fund to the office in order to reduce filing fees for most business entities for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. 

Businesses are now facing the twin threats of high inflation and soaring gas prices. According to the latest consumer price data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices of consumer products in the Denver area increased by 2 percent between March and April, bringing the 12-month inflation rate up to 9.1 percent. For comparison, the national average inflation rate was 8.5 percent. 

“Our rural economies rely on small and locally owned businesses and we need to protect these communities,” Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement. “The CLIMBER Loan Fund will help provide support for the businesses that were hit the hardest during the pandemic and help them get back to serving the communities who depend on them.”