By now, most small businesses are familiar with the economic relief available to us through the federal government such as the Paycheck Protection and Shuttered Venue Operations programs, as well as the availability of long-term, government-backed Economic Injury Disaster Loans, all through the Small Business Administration.
But it’s not just the federal government that’s offering relief to small businesses. Eligible companies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware can also take advantage of grant and loan programs that provide critical funding to help us through this severe economic downturn.
For example, last week the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously voted to approve a relief package that includes a fund of $145 million specifically targeted at small businesses in the commonwealth. The fund will offer $50,000 grants to qualifying businesses, mostly for those in the hospitality industry with fewer than 500 employees and who have a suffered a 25% revenue decline in certain time periods. The bill still requires approval from the state House of Representatives and Gov. Tom Wolf.
While we’re waiting for that bill to be signed, small businesses should also be watching for the reopening of the PA Coronavirus Small Business Assistance Program, which was initially funded by the federal CARES Act and offers grants of up to $50,000 to qualifying small businesses. The program is currently not accepting new applications, but there is hope that a new federal stimulus recently proposed by the Biden administration will provide more funds. So keep an eye out.
There is a grant program open if you’re a female business owner in Pennsylvania (as well as New Jersey and Delaware). That ongoing program is offered by WomensNet, a nonprofit entrepreneurial group for women that provides monthly nationwide grants of up to $10,000 with winners eligible for a separate annual grant of $25,000. The grants are awarded by a panel of judges who review applicants’ stories about their businesses.
Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Restaurant and Gym Relief Program is also now accepting applications. The program is designed to provide financial relief in the form of $15,000 grants to small businesses — specifically restaurants, gyms and others whose primary activity is “indoor exercise.” They must be in the city and had to have been impacted by the government’s November 2020 restrictions.
Across the river, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s loan program provides “creditworthy” small, minority-owned or women-owned businesses in the state with $500,000 in long-term low-interest loans that can be used for working capital. Applicants must have been in operation for at least a year (or nonprofits in operation for three years) and have less than $3 million in total revenue but otherwise couldn’t get traditional bank financing.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority has a separate Entrepreneur Support Program that guarantees up to 80% of investments made by corporations and investors in New Jersey businesses. The program, which remains open to applicants, is targeted at investors who have already supported a New Jersey business through equity funding made before March 26, 2020, with the aim of encouraging those investors to provide additional funds.
New Jersey’s Atlantic County Improvement Authority is also offering low interest forgivable loans of up to $25,000 to assist businesses affected by pandemic restrictions. Like the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, proceeds can be used for forgivable expenses that include payroll, rent, overhead and the costs of certain equipment, materials and supplies. Personal guarantees are required and both principal and interest are deferred for two years.
The state of Delaware, along with New Castle County, has established a $200 million program targeted to give relief to local small businesses and nonprofits affected by the pandemic. Special considerations are being made for small businesses that have been disproportionately impacted such as those in the retail, arts and food industries, as well as others proving substantial revenue loss from 2019. Loans of up to $100,000 are available, with amounts forgiven if spent on payroll, rent, utilities and other costs.
The Delaware Division of Small Business is also offering no-interest emergency loans of up to $10,000 to some of the businesses and nonprofits in the state most significantly impacted by the pandemic, particularly those in the hospitality industry.
Although not a relief measure, Delaware’s ongoing EDGE Grant program is now accepting applications for its latest round of matching grants through the end of February. The program is aimed at Delaware companies who have been in operation for less than five years and employ fewer than 10 people. These companies can receive matching grants of up to $100,000. Grant winners are selected by a panel of judges using specific criteria such as need, location and minority status and funds can be used for various activities including rent, marketing and infrastructure.
We’re still in the dark days of this pandemic. But most economists are expecting a recovery by midyear. Unfortunately, that’s little comfort to a small-business owner struggling to survive right now. Hopefully, the federal and state relief listed above will get us through that. Please note that many of these programs are affected by various federal stimulus programs and the availability of funds cannot be guaranteed. It’s key to act fast and pay attention to application closing dates.
Gene Marks is a certified public accountant and the owner of the Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd.