More funding is on its way to small businesses across Berkshire County affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is a deadline to meet in order for companies to receive the funding.
Businesses with 50 or fewer employees may be eligible for grants up to $75,000 that would cover rent, payroll and other expenses. Through a combination of state money and federal CARES Act funding, Massachusetts has weaved together a pot of more than $50 million for small businesses, administered by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. Applications are due November 12.
Ben Lamb, director of Economic Development at 1Berkshire and a city councilor for North Adams, said the support will be critical as the new regulations create lower revenue capacity for businesses.
“The nice thing about this happening right now is we are about to go into a traditionally quieter season for our businesses anyway,” he told the Eagle. “So these are going to be important dollars.”
Eligible businesses can receive up to three months of operating expenses. Preference will go to businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans, according to the MGCC. Businesses that have not received federal aid yet will also go to the top of the list.
“There’s a difference between a response fund and a recovery fund, and this is trying to walk that line between both,” said Lamb. He added that he hopes the money will serve as a bridge until Congress passes more federal relief.
The MGCC funds are split into two programs, with one geared at businesses with up to five employees. Lamb stressed that owners of those businesses should look carefully at the eligibility criteria and benefits for both programs before sending in an application.
Low- and moderate-income owners of microenterprise businesses — those with five or fewer employees — have another option to tap CARES Act funding: grants up to $10,000 administered by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
For those grants, businesses can only receive funding commensurate to their pandemic losses.
Across most of the county, the microenterprise grant applications are accepted first-come, first-served on a rolling basis, according to the BRPC. A parallel program in North Adams accepting applications for forgivable loans in two-week rounds until funding runs out, with second round applications due November 16.
The grants are restricted by a household income cap, so a single-person household would be eligible with an income up to $47,850 or $50,900, depending on the municipality.
Amy Shapiro of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, which is helping to administer North Adam’s forgivable loan program, told the Eagle that the income cap will help direct funds to people who may not have enough money saved to get through a downtown in business.
“The goal is to get this money to people who really need it,” she said, adding that North Adams business owners who earned more than the cap last year but have lost income since then may still qualify based on recent pay stubs.
Seven North Adams businesses applied in the first round, Shapiro said, and her office will review their applications next week.