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Maryland providing cash relief for the self-employed and others impacted by Key Bridge collapse

Officials with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) said the agency has doled out $3.4 million in loans to small business owners, since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on March 26. It set up business recovery centers in the Baltimore region — a few days after the collapse — to help entrepreneurs apply for disaster loans.

Business owners impacted by the tragedy across Maryland, and some counties in surrounding states, have until Dec. 30, 2024 to apply for long-term loans of up to $2 million at 4% interest. They have 60 days to accept the loan.

Dilawar Syed, a deputy administrator with the SBA, said more than 1,000 applications have come in. Of those, 59 of them have been approved. He declined to say how many have been denied.

For Frederick Mensah, all of that is immaterial. The independent truck driver, who owns Cilla Transportation, made his way to a recovery center Friday morning. There, he told reporters that he had fallen through the cracks. He said as a 1099 worker, he is ineligible for unemployment.

“I don’t have any money coming in and I’m still incurring costs, how can I think of a loan right now?” he asked. “That would be another burden. I don’t care if the interest rate is low, I will still have to pay it back,” said the father of four.

Following a closed door roundtable, federal, state and city appointed leaders said they are working to prevent more people from falling through the cracks.

“There are gaps,” acknowledged Syed. “This is why the federal government is going to partner with the state of Maryland, the local level as well. We're going to see how we speed up some of this. And how we will keep adding resources.”

On Friday afternoon, Gov. Wes Moore announced a new state program that will support workers like Mensah. The $15 million program, established through an executive order and authorized by the Maryland Protecting Opportunities and Regional Trade (PORT) Act, will be administered by the Maryland Department of Labor.

The Port of Baltimore Worker Support Program will provide $430 weekly to solopreneurs who have lost income since the bridge collapsed.

“Our mission is to help as many people as we can during this difficult time,” said Moore.

Eligible workers include:

  • Independent contractors
  • Individual owner-operators
  • Sole proprietors
  • Single person Limited Liability Companies (LLC)
  • Employees of a Port business or trade association
  • Workers who receive a 1099 tax form from a Port business

Click here to apply.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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