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Grant program opening for Louisiana virus-harmed businesses

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana small businesses that have been hammered by the coronavirus outbreak and haven’t received federal aid can start applying Tuesday for grants up to $15,000 to cover pandemic-related expenses, under a program created by state lawmakers.

Grants in the $275 million, federally financed Main Street Recovery Program are expected to run out quickly. More than 450,000 businesses are estimated to be eligible, but fewer than 20,000 would be able to collect payments if they each receive the maximum grant.

Treasurer John Schroder, who was tasked by lawmakers to oversee the program, is encouraging businesses to file their paperwork in the opening days.

“We expect this money to go fast so you need to be ready to apply,” Schroder said in a statement.

The treasurer’s office set up a website at louisianamainstreet.com to take applications and answer eligibility questions.

Grants for the first 21 days will only be available to businesses that didn’t receive other federal aid via the Paycheck Protection Program or a U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan — and that didn’t receive insurance for interruptions to their business.

Businesses can receive dollars for interruption costs, employee payroll, supplies, rent, protective gear, cleaning equipment and other items tied to the virus outbreak. They can get money to cover renovations or temporary structures used to promote social distancing.

To be eligible, businesses have to be located in Louisiana. They can’t have had more than 50 full-time workers as of March 1, before Louisiana saw its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus. And they can’t be a subsidiary of or owned by a larger company with more than 50 full-time employees.

Lawmakers set aside $275 million for the small business grant program from $1.8 billion Louisiana received in direct congressional aid to respond to the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus.

Baton Rouge business owner Abby Bullock says it has been a tough couple of months.

"The inventory that came in right before quarantine, I mean, it was like I got baseball shirts in for baseball season which didn't happen. Then it was St. Patty's day and I didn't get to sell all of that inventory," Bullock said.

The owner of "Wanderlust By Abby" says she hopes to get something, but will have to wait to potentially receive that check.

"It is for the people who didn't receive anything for the PPP or SBA loan. So someone like me who did get the SBA loan, I'm kind of put down on the list," Bullock said. "After 21 days a business like me will be reviewed."

Of the money allocated to the grant program, $40 million must be spent on grants to assist minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses. Up to $15 million of the money can be used for administrative costs, but the treasurer’s office said the costs of contractors hired to manage and market the program won’t exceed $7.2 million.

The opening of the business grant aid comes as coronavirus cases continue to soar in Louisiana, with another 2,300 infections confirmed by the state health department Monday. Nearly 3,700 Louisiana residents have died from COVID-19, and 1,600 patients with the disease are hospitalized. The state, which once appeared to successfully reduce the virus’ spread, has returned to one of the nation’s highest per capita infection rates.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe or fatal illness.


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