Thursday, April 26, 2001

State helps make riot recovery loans cheaper




By Debra Jasper
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — Cincinnati businesses hurt by rioting may be eligible for loans at reduced rates, Ohio Treasurer Joseph Deters announced Wednesday.

        Mr. Deters' spokesman, Tim Clark, said the state will make $2 million available to reduce the rates on new or existing loans for eligible businesses.

        He said the money — which would lower interest rates on individual loans by about 3 percentage points — can be used to repair damage or ease overall debt while businesses recover.

        “Certain small business owners in Cincinnati are facing a very difficult challenge and I am hopeful this action will help ease some of that burden,” Mr. Deters said.

        Mr. Clark said local business owners will have to apply for loans with their local lender, who will perform the credit check and assume any credit liability. The lender and business would then apply together to participate in the state's loan reduction program.

        He emphasized the state assumes no credit risk.

        “If it's an 8 percent loan, the program can knock it down to 5 percent, which can be significant,” Mr. Clark said. “The money can also be applied to existing loans.”

        Mr. Deters decided to implement the program after treasury officials took part last week in an Ohio Emergency Management Agency discussion of potential relief measures. More than 150 small businesses in the Cincinnati area are thought to have been affected.

        Mary Anne Sharkey, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob Taft, said Wednesday the governor applauds the move to give people reduced rate loans.

        “The governor is very supportive and hopes the state will continue to help those small businesses hurt during the disturbances in Cincinnati,” she said.

        She said Mr. Taft thinks the $2 million is not enough to help everyone in need but said he hopes the money, combined with private insurance and other state and federal dollars, will provide significant recovery money.

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