New CARES Act grants have short windowPosted on August 28, 2020 | News
Eastport business woman Linda Godfrey jumped into action when she received an e-mail notice from Eastern Maine Development Corporation (EMDC) on the morning of August 21 with the announcement of a $200 million Economic Recovery Grant Program starting that day for small businesses and nonprofits and funded by the federal CARES Act. The problem was that EMDC doesn’t serve Washington County, and it was unclear how Washington County businesses were going to get the news in a timely manner about the new grant program, which has a deadline of Wednesday, September 9.
For years Washington County was served by EMDC, but a restructuring of the seven economic development districts in the state put the county under the jurisdiction of the Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC). However, a portion of the county’s economic development needs are served by the Sunrise County Economic Council (SCEC), adding to the confusion.
NMDC Business Advisor Brandon McDonald explains that his organization’s small business development center serves just northern Washington County because there is a small business advisor serving Machias and south in the county and based at SCEC. However, he says, “As NMDC is the registered Economic Development District for both the Aroostook and Washington [CARES Act] grant pools, I have advised that individuals with questions regarding either grant pools within all of Aroostook and Washington should contact NMDC.”
Businesses and nonprofits interested in applying for the grant program do not have to go through NMDC unless they need assistance. Otherwise the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has a website page and portal dedicated to the grant application process with pre recorded informational webinars, answers to commonly asked questions and a description of what an applicant will need to apply. In addition the website outlines who can apply and who would not be eligible.
Because of Godfrey’s proactive response, DECD Commissioner Heather Johnson and the Office of Business Development’s Jonathan Poole will be holding a webinar for businesses and nonprofit organizations in Washington County on Tuesday, September 1, at 10:30 a.m.
Registration for the webinar opened on Wednesday, August 26, at this link.
Grant program details
The Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program is set up to provide financial relief to Maine’s small business and nonprofit organizations. Governor Janet Mills recently announced the $200 million program’s application start, with up to $100,000 awarded based on financial burden. The program is not set up on a first come, first served basis. Instead applications received up to the deadline will be held and then reviewed by the corresponding organization responsible for each applicant’s economic development district. In the case of Washington County, the organization would be the Northern Maine Development Commission.
At a webinar held on August 21, DECD Commissioner Johnson explained, “The program is designed to help businesses and nonprofits to remain viable, shift and adjust.” To qualify for the funding, Maine small businesses and nonprofits must employ 50 or fewer full time employees and contracted employees. The 50 or fewer employees includes even those businesses who might employ a handful year round but have more than 50 for three months out of the year. Employees are considered full time at 40 hours a week. Part time is considered 30 hours or less, and an employee in this category would be counted as one half an employee toward the 50 maximum number. Nonprofits that have no employees can apply if they have filed a federal form 990 or 990 EZ in the past.
Eligibility is based on lost revenue minus expenses from March 1, 2020, onward that are caused by the impact of the pandemic. A loss will need to be shown in order for the applicant to be eligible. However, there has to be a minimum loss of 20% or more in order to qualify. The grant application will require numbers taken from the applicant’s 2017, 2018 and 2019 federal tax forms and the first six months of expenses and revenues for 2020. If a business is too new to have those tax forms, they should still apply. In addition an applicant will need to apply for a Data Universal Number System (DUNS) number through the DECD website, which can take up to three days, so planning ahead is needed within the short application period. When applying for the DUNS, check off the status of “federal grantee,” was the advice given during the webinar.
Funding can cover expenses including: payroll, mortgage, utility, inventory and personal protective equipment. Acceptance of applications started on August 21 and will end at 11:59 p.m. on September 9. DECD hopes to move rapidly in its determination of grant awards. At the moment, DECD hopes to be able to notify awardees by the end of September and disburse funds in early October. The grant does not have to be paid back, but it will be taxed as income, and the funds need to be spent by the end of 2020.
Jared Tapley, business advisor with NMDC, notes that he and his organization can help with two programs available for COVID 19 relief. “Currently there are two grant programs available, the Micro Enterprise Grant, which can be up to $5,000 in COVID 19 relief, and we also have the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program that can go up to $100,000, depending on the amount of loss a business has faced due to COVID 19. The business advisors at NMDC can help guide applicants through the online portal portion for the Maine Economic Recovery Grant and assist with the application and submission portion of the Micro Enterprise Grant. If anyone needs help with the application process or has questions, I can be reached at my direct line, 498 5027, or by e-mail at email@example.com.”
In addition to Tapley’s help, businesses and nonprofits can sign up for assistance at NMDC by calling 498 8736 or visiting NMDC’s website or they can visit DECD’s site at DECD to directly access the application process.