Trish Ferrand, economic development coordinator at the EDD, said the grant is needed because the department has more loan applications than can be funded.
The department had loan requests in July and August for more than $500,000 that could not be funded, Ferrand said.
As of Dec. 12, the program had $477,293 outstanding on 24 loans. The average loan balance is about $20,000, some loan balances could be as little as $5,000 and some might be as much as $40,000, she said.
Hollis said the program has a successful payback record because loan payments are structured on a business' ability to repay.
Generally, the county is not the primary lender, he said. All business seeking a loan are required to approach banks first.
If a business can get a bank to finance most of the loan, EDD will cover the rest, he said. The grant money decreases the bank's risk and the county benefits because businesses have to meet a bank's credit standard for a loan.
Ferrand said once a business has established it is credit worthy, the department's priority is funding loans that can bring the best economic impact for the money.
Statewide, Imperial County does well applying for these grants, because of its high unemployment rate, said Larry Davis, senior development specialist with the state Department of Housing and Community Development, which is funding the grant.
The EDD has funded at least $700,000 in loans since the program started in 1995, Ferrand said.
The grant money should be available in February. Loans can be approved in two weeks and will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, Hollis said.
>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org