Navigant and RI Hispanic Chamber offer low-interest loans to Latinx small businesses

NAVIGANT CREDIT UNION, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Rhode Island and Papitto Opportunity Connection on Monday announced a new low-interest loan program for Latinx small business owners who may have difficulty obtaining traditional bank loans. Pictured from left to right: Oscar Mejias, CEO of the Chamber; loan recipient Marjorie Ortiz, owner of Marjorie Beauty Studio; Kathleen Orovitz, CEO-elect of Navigant; John Tarantino, managing director of Papitto; and loan recipients Carmen Rodriguez, owner of Lunita House, and Glenda Pagan, owner of Key Treats. / COURTESY OF PERRY GROUP

PROVIDENCE — The state’s largest credit union has partnered with a Hispanic business services group to try to help Latinx small business owners get bank loans.

Navigant Credit Union, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Rhode Island and Papitto Opportunity Connection gathered Monday for an event to announce the launch of the Building Bankable Business Loan Program. The “non-traditional” loan program provides Latinx small business owners and entrepreneurs with access to capital to start or grow their business, recognizing that this group often struggles to obtain traditional bank financing.

Navigant, as a lender, will provide loans of $500 to $5,000 to qualifying startups or small businesses, which can be used as working capital, for gap financing, leasehold improvements, acquisition of land and buildings, refinancing debt and purchasing equipment, among other uses.

Papitto Opportunity Connection will provide $150,000 per year for three years to serve as collateral on all loans approved under the program, while the Chamber will administer the program, said Oscar Mejias, CEO of the Hispanic Chamber.

The program also includes access to business and financial training and technical assistance.

Mejias pointed out that the loan program not only provides recipients with immediate capital, but also helps them develop long-term banking relationships that can help them secure larger loans later.

“We create a credit score for this business and we create a history with a financial institution,” Mejias said.

Latino and Black-owned businesses are statistically less likely to be approved for bank loans or have relationships with traditional financial institutions compared to White-owned businesses.

Although program officials announced the launch on Monday, the program started informally in the spring and has already issued 26 loans to small and micro businesses, Mejias said. He estimated that the program will help at least 150 businesses depending on the funding available.

The loans are capped at an interest rate of 1% and repayable within five years. Businesses must be Latino-owned with fewer than 10 employees and less than $20,000 in annual revenue to be eligible.

For more information or to apply, contact the Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at 401-400-1340 or visit

Nancy Lavin is a staff writer for PBN. You can reach her at [email protected]

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