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PUBLISHED: 6:00 PM on Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Energy loan applications ready for businesses
JEDC's short-term loans should be a last resort, official says
The Juneau Economic Development Council announced on Friday that small businesses may begin submitting loan applications to assist with increased energy bills.

Juneau has been using expensive diesel fuel since April's avalanches that downed transmission towers running from the Snettisham hydropower facility.

The City and Borough of Juneau allotted $500,000 to JEDC to be used for the Business Electricity Loan Program (BEL). The loans are intended for the "most vulnerable businesses" without other options.

JEDC Executive Director Brian Holst said JEDC is intended to be a "lender of last resort." He said small businesses should first look to their own financial institution or other lenders, or apply for long-term assistance through the Small Business Administration.

"Businesses that are unable to get financing from those sources would come to us," he said.

Businesses can apply for a short-term three percent fixed-rate loan to offset 70 percent of the Cost of Power Adjustment (COPA), but can borrow no more than $10,000 total, Holst said. Home businesses also may apply for loans. Holst said the goal is to process loans in just a few days.

Application forms and full details are available on JEDC's website, www.jedc.org or from the Juneau Unplugged website. Businesses are required to submit a written bank credit decline letter for a similar loan amount. Applications will be accepted through September 30 or until funds are depleted.

The Juneau Small Business Development Center (JSBDC) is offering free assistance to business owners who need help completing BEL applications. Call (907) 463-3789 to schedule an appointment.

Alaska Electric Light & Power announced last week that hydropower could be restored by Sunday. If so, rates will be significantly cheaper during next month's bill.

Since a timeline if now set, Holst said some businesses may decide to absorb the increased cost themselves, although he's unsure how many businesses will apply for aid.

The $500,000 available is a small fraction of the total cost to businesses, Holst said, and he believes some businesses will need a few months to financially recover after the crisis ends.

"The impact is more than just the cost of electricity, it's also the loss of business while people are saving money in their own homes," he said. "People are postponing or avoiding expenses right now.

"We can't make up for those two months where people have been hurt. Depending how much damage this did, it could take a businesses four or five months to recover."

AEL&P spokesperson Gayle Wood said the utility company is mailing out informational materials that detail how increased energy costs could be spread out during a 12-month period.

Loan applications can be picked up at JEDC's office at 612 W. Willoughby Avenue, Suite A, at AEL&P's office, the CBJ sales tax office, at local banks and at the Juneau Small Business Development Center.

Application forms and full details are available on JEDC's website, www.jedc.org or from the Juneau Unplugged website, www.juneauunplugged.com.

Charles Westmoreland can be reached at editor@capweek.com


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