If your business missed out on Paycheck Protection Program loans, there are still alternatives to help small businesses survive until the COVID-19 pandemic ends, a top Wells Fargo official in Colorado said.

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The banking giant created the Wells Fargo Open for Business Fund from the $420 million in fees it collected from the Paycheck Protection Program that has been funneled to specialized lenders and nonprofits to provide low-cost funding to entrepreneurs, said Brandon Meredith, Wells Fargo's small business banking leader for Colorado. The fund is focused on businesses owned by Black, African American, Latino, Asian American, American Indian, and Alaska Native entrepreneurs.

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The program is designed to help businesses manage the economic effects of the pandemic by providing needed capital, technical assistance, and long-term recovery and resiliency support, according to its website. In Colorado, the Colorado Enterprise Fund, which makes loans statewide, and Community Enterprise Development Services, which makes loans only in the Denver area, both received support from the fund.

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"These types of lenders (community development financial institutions) are designed to help stimulate the economy by helping businesses that can't get traditional (bank) loans," Meredith said. "There are still a lot of businesses that are struggling to make it out of the pandemic. So even with the Paycheck Protection Program funds exhausted, there are options like community development financial institutions" to help.

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Colorado Springs businesses credit Payroll Protection Program for survival

Meredith said struggling small businesses also should look at micro lenders (institutions that focus on making very small loans), grant programs available through El Paso County and other local governments, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, both through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Other resources are available through the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center.

More than 8,700 federal Paycheck Protection Program loans made in Colorado Springs area

Nationwide, Wells Fargo made more 282,000 forgivable loans totaling nearly $14 billion under two rounds of Paycheck Protection Program loans, helping to keep 1.74 million people employed. In Colorado, the banking giant made more than 11,000 loans totaling $450 million, keeping more than 50,000 Colorado workers on the payroll, Meredith said. The average loan size nationwide was nearly $68,000, while in Colorado the average was about $40,000.

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Among all lenders, the program made nearly $800 billion nationwide available to 11.8 million small businesses. In Colorado, the program made $4.74 billion available to more than 87,000 small businesses. The loans can be forgiven if 60% of the money is used for payroll. The program was created by pandemic relief legislation in March 2020 and February 2021 to help small businesses keep employees.

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