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Bridge update: State officials seek aid for businesses hit by bridge closure

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ADDISON COUNTY — Local, state and federal officials have been hard at work trying to address the challenges created by the Champlain Bridge closure since the New York Department of Transportation deemed the bridge unsafe for traffic of any kind on Oct. 16.

The bridge connects Chimney Point, Vt., to Crown Point, N.Y., and is closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic. In a press release on Friday from Governor James Douglas’s office, the governor announced that his administration is focusing both on short-term transportation solutions as well as aid for businesses hard hit by the bridge closure.

“Getting businesses money to help them cope with the loss of this transportation link is critical, as is making sure that the impact on their workforces is minimized,” said Vermont Economic, Housing and Community Development Commissioner Tayt Brooks.

There are two loan programs operated by the U.S. Small Business Administration that could help businesses. The first is the American Recovery Capital program, which provides no-interest loans of up to $35,000 from private banks that are 100 percent guaranteed by the SBA. The money can be used to pay existing loans, including credit card debt used in the business. To be eligible the business must have been in business two years and must have been profitable in one of the last two years.

The other loan is an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which provides low-interest loans of up to $2 million to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes meet their financial obligations. To access the loan, the governor must certify to the SBA that at least five businesses have been harmed by the disaster, and the business must have applied for a standard bank loan and been rejected.

Local farmers who have also been affected by the bridge closing may also be eligible for some assistance. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets reports that they are in contact with the farmers and are working with other agriculture related agencies and organizations to provide assistance wherever possible.

“I want to assure the people of Vermont that we are doing all we can across state government to assist those affected by this terrible situation,” said Governor James Douglas, who is abroad in Seoul, Korea, and met with his staff regarding the bridge by conference call. “That is why I have asked members of my administration from the Agency of Commerce, Agency of Agriculture, Vermont Emergency Management and others to determine what programs and services are needed and available in the short, medium and long terms to help those affected at this difficult time. It’s also why we’re working so closely with the members of our Congressional delegation to ensure we’re exploring all options available, at every level of government.”

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