ST. PAUL, Minn. — Good luck applying for a 0-percent “forgivable loan” from a bank — unless your lender happens to be Twin Cities taxpayers.

They recently advanced nearly $4 million free and clear to businesses riding out the economic havoc from building a new light rail line nearing completion. But even that amount might not be enough to offset the losses those businesses experienced during construction.

“Nobody knew how this program was going to work and so there was always the possibility that someone would take a loan and show up the next day in Puerto Rico with $20,000, close down the business and leave,” said Nancy Homans, policy director for St. Paul.