By Deb Millman, Vice President of Development, GRCA | President of the Greater Berks Development Fund
The Pennsylvania State Small Business Credit Initiative (PA-SSBCI) was established with federal funding through the Federal State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), reauthorized by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) as a response to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding includes a main capital allocation to support small businesses overall, an allocation for business enterprises owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals (SEDI-owned businesses), and an incentive allocation for SEDI-owned businesses, and an allocation for very small businesses (VSBs).
Greater Berks Development Fund (GBDF), an affiliate of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, is the Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO) for Berks County, as designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). Led by the Chester County Economic Development Council, GBDF partnered with Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Lebanon and Perry Counties to submit a regional application for SSBCI funding. In September, the application for $20 million received approval from DCED. Berks County has been allocated approximately $2.8 million to be utilized over the next three years. Regionally, the new funding will be aptly named the Pennsylvania Catalyst Loan Fund and will be used to create a revolving loan fund for small businesses. The revolving loan funds must be matched by private funding, which will create lending and investments to small businesses that need additional support and resources to expand and create jobs.
The Pennsylvania Catalyst Loan Fund will feature fixed interest rates that are below prevailing bank interest rates. Loans will typically range from $50,000 to $500,000, and the loan application process will begin Tuesday, Nov. 1. Unlike many other programs, funds can be used to refinance existing debt along with providing additional capital. Funds are also unique in that it is intended to be in a subordinate lien position to other financing. GBDF will work with its local partners, including the City of Reading, the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce, Alvernia University’s O’Pake Institute and Neighborhood Housing Services, to identify potential borrowers. To prepare for the completion of an application, business owners should assemble the necessary documentation, including a business plan, financial statements/ tax return, projections, budget and project description. A funding checklist and other information about the program can be found at: greaterreading.org/pa-loan-catalyst-fund/. Loan applications will be reviewed and considered by a regional loan committee made up of members from each participating county.
In addition to the new Pennsylvania Catalyst Loan Fund, GBDF also administers the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) loan program for Berks County as well as other loan and grant programs available through DCED.
For additional information on the Pennsylvania Catalyst Loan Fund or other programs, please call 610.898.7782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.