Cranston Herald: Cranston business owner part of loan program rollout | Rhode Island Commerce,152762

A Cranston business owner played a central role in the Monday announcement of a new small business loan initiative on the state level.

The $10 million fund – a partnership between Goldman Sachs, the Community Reinvestment Fund and the state, designed to provide access to the federal Payroll Protection Program, or PPP, for businesses who have experienced difficulty securing a lender – exhausted its initial funding within hours of its launch.

The program, as presented during a morning conference call and follow-up press release, provides loans of up to $250,000 for qualifying businesses. The loans are designed to help businesses maintain or restore payroll during the current crisis and can be forgiven if certain criteria are met.

Jose Castellanos, owner of Cranston-based Rhody Tees, joined the conference call along with Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, Goldman Sachs Executive Vice President John Rogers and Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor.

“I’ve got to say, these past few weeks have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Catellanos said. “As a relatively young business, I was not prepared for this type of situation. Our most reliable customers are precisely those that were first called to shut down. Schools, churches, events in general is where we find our niche to sell our products. I quickly found myself with no business.”

Castellanos said he received an emergency bridge loan through the Rhode Island Commerce Corp., and he praised the state’s partnership with Goldman Sachs as providing a vital lifeline to struggling businesses.

“This will really help other businesses like mind to have easier access to the PPP loans and get money back into the small business community,” he said.

Castellanos also noted that his company has launched a T-shirt sale fundraiser on its website,, with $10 from each purchase going to support a local small business of the purchaser’s choice.

Castellanos is a graduate of the 10,000 Small Businesses program, another state partnership with Goldman Sachs that aims to provide small businesses with access to education, capital and support services.

Raimondo said that existing relationship with the investment firm played a key role in making the $10 million fund a reality, and she praised Goldman Sachs for “stepping up once again to support Rhode Island.” She noted that to date, some businesses have experienced difficulty in securing a lender to apply for PPP assistance, and the fund announced Monday was meant to help those operations specifically.

Reed during the call said federal leaders have “much, much more” to do to ensure the various assistance and programs of the CARES Act work “efficiently and effectively.”

“On this call we are spiritually and emotionally shoulder to shoulder for our small businesses,” he said.