Worcester To Pursue $500K USDA Grant

SNOW HILL — Worcester County is seeking $500,000 in United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant funding to channel into an Intermediary Re-lending Program (IRP).

The program would offer long-term, low-interest business loans and would fill a role similar to the popular Video Lottery Terminal (VOLT) loan program already in place in Worcester.

Businesses, especially start-ups, have been finding a lot of value in the county’s various grant funded loan programs, according to Bill Badger, director of Economic Development. Last year the VOLT loan program, which is funded by revenue generated by casinos in Maryland, supplied over $800,000 in loans to Worcester businesses. The proposed USDA IRP would act in a similar capacity and could be a big benefit to the county as Worcester is still waiting to hear if it will again be a fund manager for VOLT loans next year.

“This is another supplement. I get calls every day about the VOLT fund and right now we’re waiting for the re-authorization of the funding for VOLT,” Badger told the County Commission Tuesday. “As the commissioners know, we’re partnering again with Anne Arundel County. So this is just another way that we can service the need to create jobs in our county.”

The USDA loans would be available for things like commercial real estate acquisition, building improvements, start-up costs or the re-financing of existing debt, among other uses. Ineligible uses would include religious or fraternal organizations, insurance companies, golf courses, race tracks, gambling or any illegal activities.

If awarded, the $500,000 would be managed by Maryland Capital Enterprises and be broken into loans between $25,000 and $150,000. A maximum loan could run up to a decade and the interest rates would be between 3 and 5 percent based on the market.

“Any funds rewarded will be placed into the Worcester County Revolving Loan Fund, managed by Maryland Capital Enterprises on our behalf,” Badger wrote in a memo to the commission. “Funds would be used to foster the growth of new businesses and to assist with business expansion in the county. Objectives of the fund are to increase the county’s tax base and to create jobs.”

The commission unanimously voted to pursue the USDA IRP.

As for VOLT funding, Badger has said that he expects to hear from the state this month about whether the Worcester and Anne Arundel partnership will be renewed.