(The Center Square) – Federal money from taxpayers, $198 million of it, will go toward the small business sector in Maryland that employs nearly half of the state’s workforce.

The statewide initiatives will support ongoing state investments in underserved communities by targeting areas with a large number of small, micro, and socially and economically disadvantaged individual businesses, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a release.

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Small businesses represent 99.5% of all businesses and employ 49.3% of workers in Maryland, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy report. Racial minorities comprised 42.5% of workers and owned 35.9% of businesses. And 68.6% of state businesses employ one to four people.

The governor’s office said that the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Department of Commerce, and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation would use the State Small Business Credit Initiative funds to expand nine state business lending and investment programs.

“Funds will be used to support businesses that historically have limited opportunities for growth, including very small businesses and socially and economically disadvantaged businesses,” Candace Pruett, a business consultant with the Small Business Development Center at its Anne Arundel County Office, told The Center Square.

Very small businesses are deemed to have less than ten employees.

“Technical assistance for eligible businesses will include legal, accounting, and financial advisory services,” Pruett said.

These funds are issued as loans or equity investments only. SSBCI does not offer grants, according to its website.

DHCD will disburse up to $103 million in its three Neighborhood BusinessWorks program initiatives, according to the SSBCI. It will provide loan funding for small businesses, owner/operator-occupied development projects, and nonprofit organizations.

The website said that the Maryland Department of Commerce, through its Small Business Development Financing Authority programs, will offer loan and equity funding for all small businesses unable to obtain adequate business financing on reasonable terms.

The $50 million TEDCO will deploy for venture capital and startup programs through equity funding for early-stage tech and life science companies and economically underserved founders and communities, the SSBCI website reported.

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