The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders and Burlington County Bridge Commission announced the launch of a new interest-free loan program aimed specifically at aiding small businesses impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A total of $660,000 in federal CARES Act funding was secured by the Burlington County Bridge Commission’s Economic Development Office for the new Health Emergency Loan Program (HELP), which will extend up to $50,000 in zero-interest financing to any business operating in the county for business-related purchases, expenses and improvements.

The loans will be managed by the Bridge Commission, which serves as the county’s economic development authority, and will supplement the county’s existing business loan programs, the Small Business Loan Program, which extends low-interest lending to businesses located anywhere in the county, and the Route 130 Revolving Loan Program, which extends zero-interest loans to businesses within the Route 130 regional corridor.

Both those two programs have delivered more than $5.5 million in loans to more than 30 businesses in the county and supported the creation or retention of more than 300 jobs.

Three additional small business loans were finalized this summer through the County’s COVID-19 business relief program. Through an entirely County/Bridge-funded program, businesses could apply for low interest loans with no application fees and an expedited process.

Also, in response to the pandemic, the Freeholders and Bridge Commission announced they would offer all businesses participating in the county’s small business assistance programs the option of deferring their loan payments until November.

Like with the other two loan programs, the new HELP loans will provide businesses working capital for purchases and can also be used to retain jobs that might be lost due to cash shortages during the pandemic.

Unlike commercial loans or U.S. Small Business Association loans, the county programs have no closing costs, and county officials said the HELP loans will be interest-free to aid businesses with their recovery.

The funding for the loans was obtained by the Bridge Commission from the U.S. Department of Commerce and its Economic Development Authority. The CARES Act authorized the agency to distribute some $1.5 billion to economic development assistance programs across the country to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

More information about the county loan programs and other resources for businesses is available online at http://www.bcbridges.org/covid19-resources/ or by calling the Bridge Commission’s Office of Economic Development and Regional Planning at 609-265-5055.

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