HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Economic Development Corp. has issued its first loans to nine businesses hurt by the COVID-19 shutdown.

The Harlingen Economic Loan Program (HELP) for Small Business committee met to consider 60 loan applications that had been submitted by local small businesses.

The zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 each will be awarded in five stages with a total of up to $1 million to be distributed. Raudel Garza, the HEDC’s chief executive officer, said his agency hopes to aid at least 100 small-business owners.

“We went through the completed applications and selected nine business owners who met all the requirements and had submitted the proper documents,” he said.

In their applications the business owners, as might be expected, wrote about the hardships caused by the impact of the coronavirus shutdown and the shelter-at-home requirements.

Some wrote they had their credit card payments, mortgage and insurance deferred for 90 days to stay afloat. Others wrote about not receiving any funding from the Small Business Administration, and were left waiting for some sort of assistance.

“This loan would allow us to pay on our past due bills we were unable to pay during our forced closure and continue to pay our employees,” wrote Bloomer’s Flower and Gifts.

“I am extremely happy that I was selected,” said Melinda Mendoza, owner of First Class Nails.

“When he (Garza) called me to tell me, I was so happy,” she added. “The process was very easy, and everyone has been so nice and helpful to work with and answer my questions.”

Garza said he has personally reached out to each of the nine selected loan recipients. The loan amounts awarded ranged from $3,000 up to the maximum amount of $10,000.

The money disbursed in the loan program was merely the first tranche in the process. Business owners who were not selected in the first round will go into the later rounds.

Garza also stressed applications can still be made online at https://help.harlingenedc.com

“To me, it’s a lot of help as far as getting back on track and I am really thankful to the City and EDC for this opportunity,” said Jaime Rodriguez, owner of Rodriguez Body Shop.

“Anybody in my shoes should take advantage of this program — it’s not a hard process,” he added. “I wasn’t even sure I’d get it, but I did, and thank you so much. This is going to help my business.”