Navigant, R.I. Hispanic Chamber offer low-interest loans for Latinx small businesses

NAVIGANT CREDIT UNION, the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Papitto Opportunity Connection on Monday announced a new, low-interest loan program for Latinx small-business owners who may struggle to secure traditional bank loans. Pictured from left: Chamber CEO Oscar Mejias; loan recipient Marjorie Ortiz, owner of Marjorie Beauty Studio; Kathleen Orovitz, Navigant CEO-elect; John Tarantino, managing trustee for Papitto; and loan recipients Carmen Rodriguez, owner of Lunita House, and Glenda Pagan, owner of Key Treats. / COURTESY THE PERRY GROUP

PROVIDENCE – The state’s largest credit union has partnered with a Hispanic business services group to try to help Latinx small-business owners secure bank loans.

Navigant Credit Union, the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Papitto Opportunity Connection gathered for an event on Monday to announce the launch of the Building Bankable Business loan program. The “nontraditional” lending program offers Latinx small-business owners and entrepreneurs access capital to start or grow their businesses, recognizing that this group often struggles with gaining traditional bank financing.

Navigant as the lender will offer loans of $500 to $5,000 for eligible startups or small businesses, which can be used as working capital, for gap financing, leasehold improvements, acquisition of land and buildings, debt refinancing, and equipment purchases, among other uses.

Papitto Opportunity Connection will kick in $150,000 a year for three years to serve as a guarantee on all loans approved through the program, while the Chamber will administer the program, said Oscar Mejias, CEO of the Hispanic Chamber.

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The program also includes access to business and financial training and technical assistance.

Mejias emphasized that the loan program not only provides recipients with immediate capital but also helps them develop long-term banking relationships that can help them secure larger loans later on.

“We are creating a credit score for that business and we are creating a history with a financial institution,” Mejias said.

Latino and Black-owned businesses statistically are less likely to be approved for bank loans or have relationships with traditional financial institutions when compared with white-owned businesses.

Although program leaders announced the launch on Monday, the program began informally in the spring and has already issued 26 loans to small and microbusinesses, Mejias said. He estimated the program will help at least 150 businesses based on the funding available.

The loans are capped at a 1% interest rate with repayment due within five years. Businesses must be Latino-owned with fewer than 10 employees and under $20,000 in annual revenue to be eligible.

For more information or to apply, contact the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 401-400-1340 or visit rihispanicchamber.org.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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