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Women team up – Portal links Web sites

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Starting today, dozens of women-oriented Web sites will direct visitors to count-me-in, a Web site that will gather donations as small as $5 for a fund that will provide loans to small businesses run by women, the Associated Press reports.

The program has been launched by Nell Merlino, who started Take our Daughters to Work Day with the Ms. Foundation, and Iris Burnett, a former USA network executive.

"If 1 million women get four friends to give as little as $5, we’ll have $25 million we can use to put women in business," Merlino said.

Program loans will carry interest rates ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent over the prime rate, which is the rate banks use for their most credit-worthy customers.  That would put the loan rate at 11 percent to 13 percent.

Applicants will be evaluated for their business potential, rather than their earnings or hard assets, the sponsors say.

The new site will begin accepting loan applications in June.

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