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State offers financial relief to those affected by bridge closure

TICONDEROGA - New York State has announced the creation of a $2.935 million economic assistance program to help North Country businesses affected by the Lake Champlain Bridge closure.

The program will address the region's full range of economic industries by awarding grants to small businesses; making low-interest loans to assist small firms in paying employees and keeping their doors open; and helping farms and manufacturers offset increased travel costs.

The Lake Champlain Bridge economic assistance program will be administered by the Empire State Development Corporation and has three components:

- $1.3 million for cash grants to retail and service firms that have suffered revenue losses of at least 20 percent during the fourth quarter of 2009 fiscal year, when compared to the same period last year. These grants will compensate up to 50 percent of uninsured loss, up to a maximum of $10,000;

- $1 million for agricultural and manufacturing firms to reduce added business costs due to the distance that detours add to their routes. Initial loans for working capital and capital investment can be converted to grants upon retention of employment; and

$635,000 in loans to help cash-strapped firms maintain payroll, order inventory and pay for operational expenses.

For more information about qualifying for the program, contact Empire State Development at 1-800-782-8369 or Email champlainbridge@empire.state.ny.us.

Local officials praised the economic assistance plan.

"It is impossible to truly understand and appreciate the hardship of those who have been directly impacted as a result of this bridge closure," Sen. Betty Little said. "It is more than a disruption. Their lives have been turned upside down. Everyone I've worked with recognizes the severity of the situation. This announcement by Gov. Paterson is good news offering more than hope, but real relief, to those who have been suffering financially."

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward agreed.

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