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State treasurer hosts local small business workshop

State Treasurer Fiona Ma
State Treasurer Fiona Ma

State Treasurer Fiona Ma led a “Small Business Workshop” designed to inform local business owners on the many programs the State of California and the local area have available to help them succeed. Held on June 10 at the UC Merced Downtown building, the main topics were: access to capital, retirement savings programs, and resources for small businesses.

“As Treasurer, I chair 16 boards, commissions and authorities that include economic development and savings programs for retirement and education. I oversee $100 billion in investments and $90 billion in bonds. Everything financial goes through my office,” Treasurer Ma told the attendees. “If you need money, call my office.”

Assemblymember Adam Gray explained that he and Ma had both served as legislative staff members. “Fiona got my attention because of her interest in Central Valley agriculture,” he said, adding he was pleased to be partnering with Treasurer Ma in providing information to local businesses.

The State Treasurer’s Office showcased its Capital Access for Small Business (CalCAP) and California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board (CalSavers) programs.

Operated by the California Pollution Control Financing Authority (CPCFA), CalCAP uses loan loss reserve accounts to partially guarantee qualifying loans. It encourages banks and other financial institutions to make loans to small businesses that have difficulty obtaining financing for working capital, start-up costs, and other typical needs including construction and renovation of buildings. Since its opening in 1994 through 2018 they have assisted with 41,763 loans totaling $3.4 billion.

Some CalCAP programs address borrowers with strong business plans who lack sufficient collateral, mom-and-pop businesses needing to make accessibility retrofits, upgrades for seismic safety, installation of electric vehicle charging stations for employees or customers, and for small fleets to retrofit heavy-duty deisel trucks to comply with emission standards.

“We are a small, but mighty organization that helps people go green,” Elena Miller from CPCFA said. “I see loans of $50,000 or less. Sometimes it’s $3,500 for a swap meet vendor that needs to buy supplies. Food truck operators are good candidates for CalCAP lending.”

More information on CalCAP is available by calling Outreach Agent Janae Davis at (916) 651-8663 or visiting online at: treasurer.ca.gov.

CalSavers launches July 1st. It’s a simple, portable, low-fee, Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for private sector workers. There are to be no fees paid by employers and no costs to taxpayers.

“Half of Californians retire into financial hardship with incomes below two times the federal poverty level,” CalSavers Outreach and Marketing Manager Jonathan Herrera told the group citing that 7.5 million Californians currently have no access to a retirement savings vehicle where they work.

It’s an IRA account where individuals may participate in retirement savings deducted from their paychecks, even when the company they work for doesn’t offer a program to employees. Even self-employed individuals are eligible to participate. The program is entirely voluntary. For CalSavers information call Herrera at (916) 653-1744.

Bianca Blomquist of Small Business Majority, Northern California Territory reviewed several types of loans programs available to small businesses. She reviewed the advantages and limitation of guaranteed loans, such as from the Small Business Administration or CalCAP, along with loans from community banks and credit unions, online lenders and even crowdfunding.

“California’s SB 1235 is the first bill to protect businesses from unfair lending practices,” Blomquist said. “And a Small Business Bill of Rights is being developed. The small business voice is often not heard in Sacramento.”

Blomquist may be reached at (612) 309-0095 for more information.

The next speaker was Jennifer Butler from Central CA SBDC Regional Network, which is located in the UC Merced Venture Lab building. “People looking to open a new business or are already running a business may get a lot of help from the SBA,” she began. “All of our consultations are completely confidential. All of our services are free. We are funded by the SBA, Merced County and the City of Merced.”

Butler told attendees they have 12 expert business advisors available, monthly business classes, webinars and help with market research. “We do the preliminary work to put together a loan application and then connect clients with a correct lender for their situation,” she said.

For more information about services from Central CA SBDC Regional Network, call Butler at (209) 386-1008.

Sponsors for the event included Assemblymember Adam Gray, UC Merced, Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce, Central CA SBDC Regional Network, Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Small Business Majority.

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