State program offers $200M in one-time grants to small businesses

Justin Henry//June 11, 2020

State program offers $200M in one-time grants to small businesses

Justin Henry//June 11, 2020

State officials provided more guidelines for the $225 million small businesses grant program announced earlier this week, which officials say will start accepting applications by the end of June.

The CARES Act-funded program is slated to provide $200 million in one-time grants for small businesses. The money is to make up for revenue losses that resulted from the Wolf administration’s mandatory shutdown order on March 19 and adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19.

The program reserves $100 million for a Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program, aimed at minority and women-owned businesses, and $100 million for a Main Street Business Revitalization Program for the Pennsylvania small business community at large.

“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,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin. “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.”

Businesses are required to apply through one of the state’s 17 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), nonprofit community-based lenders that target underserved small business communities in their region.

Another $25 million is reserved for the CDFIs to offer forbearance and payment relief for existing portfolio businesses that are financially struggling due to the coronavirus.

Thursday’s newly released guidelines stipulate that the program is only available to small businesses with a full-time equivalent employee count of 25 or less, and less than $1 million in revenue based on previously filed tax returns.

“We are requiring the 2019 tax return as part of their application, and if they don’t have that, then we’ll go to 2018 returns,” said Daniel Betancourt, president and CEO of the Lancaster-based CDFI Community First Fund, in an interview Thursday.

Eligible businesses can receive a grant of no more than $50,000 if they were in operation on Feb. 15 and the health crisis had an “adverse economic impact and makes this grant request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant,” according to the newly released guidelines.

The funds will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis, and applicants are limited to one grant.

When he announced the program on Monday, Gov. Wolf said he hoped to begin accepting applications by the end of the week; however, CDFI officials said on Thursday the program’s rollout will take longer than the governor’s initial hope and will start accepting applicants by the end of June.

Newly released guidelines for the program resulted from a proposal submitted by the Pennsylvania Community Development Financial Institutions Network, which the DCED agreed to this week, Betancourt said.

“We’re trying to reach the small mom-and-pop businesses that weren’t reached by some of the federal grant programs,” Betancourt said in an interview Thursday morning following the guidelines’ announcement.