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by Sarah Portlock

Small businesses facing financial concerns with their commercial mortgages may be eligible for a new federal program that will allow owners to refinance the loans.

The two-year temporary program starts Feb. 28 and may be opened up later to business owners who can demonstrate need in other ways.

The Small Business Administration estimates that 20,000 businesses nationwide will participate in the program, which will provide up to $15 billion in agency-guaranteed financing, according to a news release issued Thursday.

“While the economy is turning around, we still have a number of businesses who are having difficulty with their current financing,” said John Villios, the agency’s acting New Jersey director.

“We think this is a targeted approach that we think will be very helpful right now.”

Property owners can finance up to 90 percent of the property’s current appraised value or 100 percent of the outstanding principal, whichever is lower, the statement said.

Businesses that are potentially at risk because they face loan maturity or balloon payments before Dec. 31, 2012, will be given priority.

The program will accept loan applications from Feb. 28, 2011, through Sept. 27, 2012.

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