Lewiston Approves Forgivable Loan Program For Local Homeowners

LEWISTON – A small business emergency loan program will have a second life, with some funds going towards a new forgivable loan program for local homeowners.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday on the changes, which relax the standards for Lewiston’s emergency loan program after only three businesses took advantage of the initial program last year.

City staff said last week that only $ 10,680 of the $ 150,000 loan program has been spent since it was announced in June 2020, and relaunching it with new parameters could help more small businesses and homeowners.

Some of the remaining money, $ 48,000, will be set aside to fund homeowner loans, intended to help small-scale homeowners with two to eight units catch up on utility payments and other expenses during the pandemic.

Lewiston owner Amy Smith told the council Tuesday that the program is “really necessary” and asked officials to keep loan requirements flexible.

“I hope that a lot of people can use this and hold onto these properties, and continue to do well,” he said.

Officials have said that while rent relief programs have helped renters and landlords, they can also make landlords dependent on tenants to apply for or meet eligibility requirements.

A city news release on Wednesday said local landlords “have expressed concern about paying water and heating costs without a cash flow from the rent. Lewiston, like many other communities, is also concerned about foreclosures and abandoned buildings due to loss of income. “

The loans, up to $ 4,000, would come with requirements, including proof of loss of income due to non-payment of rent. Uses eligible for the funds include costs for heating, utilities, garbage collection, insurance, and taxes.

For the loan to be forgiven, the landlord must be on the city’s rental registration database, comply with the code, and agree to accept tenants using General Assistance vouchers.

Heidi McCarthy, an economic development specialist, said the city has already contacted two owners.

For small business emergency loans, the second round requirements were expanded to include for-profit and non-profit businesses, and limits for employees and gross sales were increased to encourage more applicants.

Officials have said that a short application window and other programs available during the first round may be of limited interest, but the city memo says that with the pandemic it “continues to impact business operations and with limited state and federal options, the Interest in such assistance has grown. “

The second round increased the employee limit from 50 to 100 and the sales limit from $ 2 million to $ 6 million.

Applications for both programs were available at noon Wednesday and can be accessed at www.lewistonmaine.gov/economicsupport.

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