How to Access $350 Billion in Emergency Funding From State and Local Governments
The Paycheck Protection Program may be over, but you can still get emergency funding. Just look closer to home.
Federal Covid-19 relief programs may be winding down or–in the case of the Paycheck Protection Program–over, but chances are, your business might still need aid.
Half of the country’s smallest businesses continue to struggle with the economic impacts of the pandemic, according to a June report by Yahoo Small Business. The survey also found that just 38 percent of microbusinesses–defined as those with fewer than five employees–received government support during the pandemic, with 85 percent saying they relied on community assistance to keep them afloat.
If your company still needs financial support, consider tapping state and local small-business relief programs. Many of these programs were launched early in the pandemic, but they still have funds available. The American Rescue Plan Act, which President Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021, allocates $350 billion to states, localities, territories, and tribal governments to help eligible residents. Of that, $195.3 billion is going straight to the states.
According to the National League of Cities, an advocacy group for municipalities, the funds for local governments will remain available through December 31, 2026, but may only offset costs incurred by December 31, 2024. While states can elect to deploy the money in different ways, approximately 30 states, including Utah and Georgia, are using it to fuel small-business relief efforts, mostly in the form of loans or grants. Some states also offer to connect founders with resources or mentorship.
Wolf’s Ridge Brewing, a pub, and restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, was approved for a $10,000 grant through the state’s Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund in November 2020 after the company was forced to lay off most of its 77-person staff. Co-founder Bob Szuter says the assistance program, which ended in January 2021, was not small change. “The total amount was not significant relative to the size of our business, but it certainly helped during a difficult period of 2020 when we did not know when and if there would be additional federal support,” says Szuter.
Different States, Different Rules
Every state and local program is unique–proffering different eligibility requirements, potential awards, and revenue-loss floors. Some programs require businesses to show certain revenue-loss thresholds or proof of having to close up shop. For example, businesses in Grand Junction, Colorado, can access up to $7,500 in grants but must demonstrate that the business was compelled to close or substantially limit operations because of the pandemic. New York awards grants based on an entity’s annual gross receipts for 2019, with a maximum of $50,000. Connecticut supplies one-time grants of $5,000 to businesses with fewer than 20 employees or a 2019 payroll of less than $1.5 million.
Other states offer both grant and low-interest loan programs–typically defined as loans with interest charges of less than 5 percent. Arizona’s Small Business Success Loan program offers loans of up to $75,000 with repayment terms ranging from six months to five years. Similarly, the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan Fund provides businesses with fewer than 50 workers and less than $3 million in revenue low-interest loans of up to $50,000. At least 50 percent of a loan’s proceeds have to be applied toward payroll or other eligible compensation, including salaries, wages, tips, paid leave, and group health care benefits.
While these programs may still have plenty of funds available–some don’t even have an application deadline–you’d better act fast. Many programs are accepting applications on a rolling basis until the funds are gone. That’s why it’s best to get your applications in as soon as possible, says Tom Sullivan, vice president of small-business policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been following state programs throughout the pandemic. But track them, he says. While all 50 states are due some portion of the funding from the Rescue Plan, the timing of the disbursements may be different in each state.
To wit, the timing of the second tranche of funding provided to states through the Rescue Plan is contingent on the local unemployment rate. According to the Treasury Department, states that have experienced a net increase in the unemployment rate of more than 2 percentage points from February 2020 to the latest available date of certification will receive their full allocation of remaining funds in a single payment on or around May 2022. Other states will receive funds in two separate, equal tranches.
With that, some states, counties, and cities may choose to establish new programs in the near future, says Sullivan. Governments have to apply through Treasury, and those applications are getting processed now, he says. He recommends first getting in touch with your local chamber or local economic development center, as these institutions may be paying close attention to the deployment of funds.
Before you contact a local department or apply for assistance, it’s crucial to have your financial documents in order, notes Sullivan. This includes annual or quarterly profit-and-loss statements and tax documents. “Every city and county is generally a little different,” says Sullivan, “but the folks who get their stuff in first generally get preference.”
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