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City seeks $3.83M for small businesses

February 12, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown is asking for $3.83 million from the federal economic stimulus package to help small-business owners.

Community Affairs Director Karen Giffin said Thursday that city officials recently sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., suggesting ways the city would use the money.

Congress continued working Thursday to reach an agreement on a $790 billion economic stimulus bill.

Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean, who drafted the letter to Cardin, did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

A copy of the Feb. 4 letter, which was obtained by The Herald-Mail, said the city has been "accessing (sic) the needs of our small business community for several months and with our City being heavily impacted with layoffs, reductions in hours, and outright business closings, we feel it is our duty to make certain that these concerns be brought to the attention of our Congressional leaders."

Parson-McBean went on to say in the letter that "In a community such as ours, where most people live paycheck to paycheck, you can imagine most fear and suffer the worst as they fall behind on their bills.

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"There is no difference for the small business owner except their drastically reduced revenue is now being swallowed up by those same economic hardships faced by all in our country."

The letter said the city staff prepared the following list to outline the amount of money requested and how it would be used:

o $1 million for technology to help businesses sell through the Web and have up-to-date technology. The letter says this includes "Buying in bulk web serving, hosting facility and cell phone services."

o $800,000 for a Revolving Loan Fund, to "provide stimulus funds to assist with working capital needs." The program would assist business owners by offering a grant or zero percent loan.

o $800,000 for marketing efforts for businesses.

o $500,000 to assist small businesses with utility costs. A temporary department would be created to produce applications and to work with utility companies to verify the need of the businesses that are asking for help.

o $500,000 to provide consulting services for existing businesses.

o $150,000 to help create a cooperative business purchasing program to buy office supplies. Joint daycare and health care costs might be explored as well.

o $80,000 to create a small-business coalition to discuss the needs of businesses.

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