BURLINGTON - As part of its ongoing commitment to Vermont communities, the Citizens Bank Foundation has announced it has awarded a $5,000 grant to the Vermont Community Loan Fund's Microlending Technical Assistance Program.

The Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) provides equitable access to capital for the development of affordable housing, community facilities and organizations, as well as local businesses. Its Microlending Technical Assistance Program offers consulting and education to small and emerging Vermont businesses and entrepreneurs, helping them build their operations, financial health and impact.

"VCLF's microlending program provides a critical source of assistance for women, low-income and minority entrepreneurs striving to start and grow their own businesses," said Joe Carelli, President, Citizens Bank and RBS Citizens, Vermont. "We are thrilled to support this pivotal economic development program. We hope that this grant will give entrepreneurs and small business owners the boost they need to succeed and, in turn, create jobs that will strengthen the reach and impact of Vermont's business community."

The microlending program provides borrowers with low-interest loans and the tools to best utilize this capital and grow their businesses. As part of the initiative, VCLF borrowers will receive assistance in marketing, managing and budgeting.

Between 2010 and 2013, VCLF's microlending program closed 35 microloans totaling $990,101, creating or preserving jobs for 193 Vermonters. During that period 46 percent of microloan borrowers operated businesses in town centers, and 58 percent had women in positions of senior management or business ownership.