The MED program assists entrepreneurs with loans, one-on-one counseling, technical assistance and training. A microenterprise is defined as a business that begins with $500 up to $50,000. At CEDS, the average micro loan is now $15,000 and creates an average of 1.7 jobs. The maximum and current average loan period is five years, with no prepayment penalties. Loans are disbursed to clients as reimbursements for actual expenses from receipts or invoices.
Businesses established through the CEDS program include: grocery stores; restaurants; taxi cabs; commercial trucking; delivery and transportation services; trade services like electrical contractors or plumbers; hair and beauty salons; cleaning services; automobile services; childcare or home based health care. The underwriting process is intensely focused on the assets, ideas and experience of the borrower, and takes about two weeks. The MED program has a revolving loan fund with enough assets so that there currently is not a wait list for services or loans.
The MED program is supported through funding from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Small Business Administration (SBA), The Denver Foundation, and other local foundations. The interest rate for the loans ranges from 7% to 11%, with 8.5% the average, depending on the size of the loan and the requirements of the funding source for the loan fund. (ORR requires its loan fund to be used at prime plus 4%, with a maximum loan of $10,000.) In order to be culturally sensitive, Muslim clients are assessed administrative fees rather than charged interest.