Colorado starts fund for small businesses affected by pandemic crisis

DENVER  |  Colorado small businesses suffering from the effects of the coronavirus will be able to apply for grants and loans under a new state program, Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday.

The Energize Colorado Gap Fund will be open to businesses with fewer than 25 employees and will place an emphasis on minority, women and veteran-owned firms as well as those in rural communities, Polis said during a briefing on the pandemic.

The $25 million fund received bipartisan support with public and private grants and loans to go toward those businesses either unable to participate in the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program or still struggling after the program ended.

“Support for our small businesses is really one of those powerful motivators that brings folks together across the ideological and geographic divide to really show the commitment to so many hard-working Coloradans across the state,” Polis said.

The paycheck program money was part of a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package passed by Congress in March. The money was granted to large and small businesses to be used for employee payroll, rent, mortgage interest and insurance.

Some small businesses didn’t qualify because they didn’t have “the right relationship with their banks” or the application process was too complicated, Democratic state Sen. Faith Winter said. As a result, the Energize Colorado Gap Fund has a quick and easy to use application that takes about 15 minutes, Winter said.

For the new Colorado fund, businesses that received less than or up to $25,000 from the paycheck program will have a higher priority on the list of those accepted into the new program, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Bridges said. Overall there will be $35,000 available for each business ,which includes up to $15,000 in grant funding and $20,000 in low-interest loans.

“We are anticipating that the gap fund will operate all the way through to 2021 and at that point we’ll step back and see how much value we’re adding for our state and our people,” said Kent Thiry, a Colorado businessman who helped develop the fund.

Applications will open Monday online at Energizecolorado.com. Businesses can expect to see assistance in about four to six weeks, said Thiry, the former CEO of Denver-based DaVita, a kidney care provider.