Help could be on the way for some Lebanon County businesses struggling with the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Guidelines for the $225 million COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Grants program were released earlier this month by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
The money will be administered by at least 17 community development financial institutions (CDFIs) throughout Pennsylvania. (The Lebanon City Small Business Recovery Assistance Fund also was just announced, see the related story on this program here.)
Community First Fund, headquartered in Lancaster, is the CDFI handling Lebanon County. The grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000.
Dan Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund, said in a phone interview that he expects four rounds of funding. The first general application process will open up by June 30 and close two weeks later, he said. Applications are not yet available at this time.
Once that’s done, the CDFIs will look at the applications together as a cohort and start prioritizing them across the state, Betancourt said.
Three more rounds of grants will be disbursed by mid-November, he said.
“COVID-19 has put a significant strain on all of Pennsylvania’s businesses and communities, and the COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program will expeditiously provide assistance to Pennsylvania’s small businesses, which we know are hurting,” Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin said in a release. “This critical funding will help underserved businesses such as minority-owned businesses and other businesses in historically-underserved areas begin recovery efforts and get back on their feet.”
The funds will be available through three programs:
- Main Street Business Revitalization Program: $100 million. This covers small businesses that experienced loss from the governor’s March 19 order closing non-life-sustaining businesses and have or will accrue costs to adapt to COVID-19 business operations.
- Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program: $100 million. This is for small businesses that meet the COVID-19 criteria above, in which socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51 percent interest and control management and daily business operations.
- Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program: $25 million. This will allow the CDFIs the chance to offer relief for existing portfolio businesses (those already with CDFI loans). It will also shore up the financial position of CDFIs experiencing increased defaults.
Eligible businesses will be able to use the grants for operating expenses during the shutdown and the transition to reopening. The grants also cover technical assistance, including training and guidance, for entrepreneurs as they get their businesses going again.
The $225 million is part of $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Here are some of the criteria to be eligible:
- Businesses must have been operating on Feb. 15, 2020
- The effects of COVID-19 make the grant request necessary to support ongoing operations
- The grant will go toward COVID-19-related costs
Downtown Lebanon Main Street Manager Amy Kopecky said via phone that the program is open to businesses with no more than 25 full-time employees — or the equivalent of 25 — and annual revenue of $1 million or less.
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