** This article was originally published for The Business Journal by Nicole S. Colson.
A $2,500 grant might not sound like a game-changer for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, it could mean the difference between reopening the doors or shutting down for good for microbusinesses.
Applications are now being accepted for the NH Community Development Finance Authority’s Community Development Block Grant program for COVID Relief. The Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship in Keene received $125,000 from the program to distribute $2,500 federal grants to 50 businesses in Cheshire County. The organization is one of several technical assistance providers throughout the state, providing support to businesses throughout the application process.
The Community Development Block Grant program was created to fill a gap left in fund-ing from the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. A microbusiness is defined as having five or fewer employees, including the business owner. Eligible microbusinesses must meet low- to moderate-income requirements as defined by Housing and Urban Development.
In Cheshire County, about 40% of microbusinesses meet the program’s income requirements. “It’s unusual for nonprofits to be allowed to grant funds,” notes Mary Ann Kristiansen, Hannah Grimes Center executive director. “In a community of our size, we are excited. It’s a pretty nice chunk of money.”
This round of COVID relief grant funding will be the third Hannah Grimes has distributed as well as the largest amount of money and to the largest number of businesses.
In June, the organization gave out 12 $2,000 NH Community Development Fi-nance Authority grants from Citizen’s Bank. In July, it raised $11,000 and distributed 10 $1,100 “Pandemic Pivot” grants to local businesses in Cheshire County with less than $1 million in annual revenue.
A lot of microbusinesses did not take advantage of the first round of grant funding.
“They had to have an existing banking relationship (with Citizen’s Bank),” says Kristiansen. The $2,500 grants up for grabs now is money that can be spent on working capital and operating expenses.
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Click to learn more about the Small Business COVID Grant Program