Aug. 28--NORTH COUNTY -- Vowing to "mend what has been broken," Gov. Jay Nixon announced on Thursday a "Small Business Relief Program" that will extend $1 million worth of no-interest loans to small businesses affected by the strife in Ferguson.
Nixon was joined by state Treasurer Clint Zweifel and others at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley in Ferguson to announce details of the program, an initiative of a coalition of local governments and businesses.
The $1 million was gathered in increments of $250,000 each from the state of Missouri's small-business loan program, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and a coalition of local banks led by Pulaski Bank, Commerce Bank and Enterprise Bank & Trust.
The program will make the loans available to small businesses affected by looting and vandalism during the unrest along a corridor that includes Ferguson, Dellwood, Jennings and unincorporated St. Louis County.
Those eligible will include "any for-profit business that sustained physical and economic damage" in that corridor, according to a written description provided by the coalition.
The relief can be used by the businesses for needs including rent, utilities, payroll and inventory.
Nixon lauded the "solidarity and resolution" of residents and businesses in the area, and said the $1 million loan program is just the beginning of efforts throughout government and the private sector "to heal the economic and emotional wounds" caused by almost two weeks of unrest.
Businesses can apply for the loans by calling 314-206-3235.
Zweifel, a native of the Ferguson area, said all businesses in the area will be eligible for 24-hour loan approval. He said the program is part of a wider effort to let the public know that the region "is open for business."
The announcement was attended by local business people and residents, one of whom pressed Nixon on whether he will replace St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch with a special prosecutor in the investigation into Michael Brown's shooting.
Critics have questioned whether McCulloch will be biased in favor of the police account of the shooting. Nixon reiterated his previous stance that he intends to let the parallel county and federal investigations play out.
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