By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – The pandemic remains a tough burden for many businesses in Colorado, but the application process is now open for a new effort meant to help put much-needed cash in small businesses owner’s hands.

The Energize Colorado Gap Fund will provide more than $25 million in loans and grants to Colorado small businesses that were unable to access other loan programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program.

(credit: Matt Kroschel/CBS)

To do so, the program will prioritize women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned and rural-based businesses of 25 employees or fewer, as well as nonprofits whose missions and programs directly support small businesses, tourism and economic development.

“It’s been a challenge to be able to go through and access capital, so that is why this fund was created, to be able to go through and give a temporary boost,” said Mike Ferrufino, a member of the Energize Colorado committee as well as President and CEO of the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Energize Colorado started taking accepting applications at 6 a.m. Monday, and by 12:30 p.m. more than 400 had been submitted and 1,400 were in progress, Ferrufino said in a news conference.

One of those applicants was Fabiola Castillo, who owns FC Accounting and Tax Services, LLC. She tells CBS4 she had no luck getting a loan through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program earlier in the summer.

“I need to pay the same bills for the rent, for the utilities, and the employees,” Castillo said.

On top of filling out her own application, Castillo also called some of her clients who have financial needs. One of those people was Jesus Raudales, who owns Carniceria Chihua’s and said business has been down about 50% since the start of the pandemic.

“We applied for three to four different programs and everybody rejected our application,” Raudales said. “Right now we are in the point where we may have to close.”

Of the $25 million available in the fund, $20 million comes from CARES Act dollars. The additional $5 million, which was raised by Energize Colorado.

Sole proprietors, businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 25 full-time employees can apply for up to a $15,000 grant and a $20,000 loan for a possible combined total of $35,000 in financial assistance.

“This is basically a much-needed shot in the arm of getting some capital via a grant that does not have to be repaid and a very low interest loan,” said Ferrufino.

While the program will prioritize women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, and rural-based businesses, $5 million will be earmarked for the tourism sector until Oct. 1.

“It’s been a double-whammy,” said Rep. Perry Will (R – New Castle). “The pandemic, the shutdown, and the interstate shutdown; these businesses are really struggling, and our tourism businesses are particularly struggling.”

With five rounds of funding ahead, Fabiola Castillo will continue to urge all of her struggling clients to apply.

“I am excited because our community can fit in this space because they were excluded in the other funds,” Castillo said.

Some like Jesus Rauldales can’t afford to be excluded again.

“If we get it, we can survive a little bit longer to see when the pandemic will end,” He said.

Since the program is priority-based, and not first come first serve, there’s no need to rush your application. You can find the application and more information about the gap fund on its website.

Conor McCue

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