The eligibility for the REBUILD! VA Grant Fund for businesses, nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 has been expanded to a wider scope of small businesses, according to a news release from the Governor’s office published Monday.
The expansion of the grant program, administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD), now includes small hotels, bed and breakfast facilities and Virginia film companies as well as companies that provide goods or services to eligible businesses.
The decision to expand eligibility was made from analysis of received applications, both eligible and ineligible, with the first 30 days of the program launch, the release said.
Overall, eligible businesses include restaurant and beverage services, fitness gyms, non-essential brick and mortar retail, entertainment and public amusement, personal care and grooming services and overnight summer camps, according to the program website.
Originally launched on August 10th, the fund’s criteria for businesses are that they must have 25 or less employees, have made less than $1.5 million in annual gross revenue in the last fiscal year and must be in good standing with the State Corporation Commission, according to the program website.
Approved businesses may receive up to three times their average monthly expenses with a cap of $10,000, but grant funding can only be used on the recurring expenses such as employee salaries, rent and utilities, loan payments as well as other costs related to COVID-19 response, according to the website.
There is a discrepancy about which businesses may be eligible or not, however.
On a frequently asked questions document about the grant program, it says applicants who have received funding under the CARES Act – Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan – are not eligible.
Yet, it says in the news release from the Governor’s office that businesses which received money from the CARES Act would be eligible, but can only use funding from REBUILD! VA for the aforementioned recurring expenses.
Once Virginia are small business expert said the eligibility expansion is in response to a report from the Joint legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) published last week, which said the lending side of the SBSD was doing a poor job issuing loans to small businesses, and subsequent backlash from JLARC’s findings.
“This program is a joke, it’s way too late,” the he said. “They launched it and it has been a failure, and [now] they are trying to scramble to do something to make it work. The idea of [the program] is a good one, but it is a failure of the Governors.”
The Virginia Star made multiple attempts to reach the SBSD for comment on this story, but did not get a response by press time.
In 2019, there were 745,886 small businesses operating in Virginia, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration office of advocacy.
Under the restrictions of REBUILD! VA, it is extremely hard to know how many businesses are eligible, even with the expansion, therefore it’s also hard to determine the number of businesses that will actually receive grants.
Additionally, it’s unclear who makes the final decision on whether a small business is eligible or not. Does that fall solely onto the SBSD or are the partners, like the Department of Housing and Community Development, involved as well?
All relevant information on REBUILD! VA and a link to the application can be found here.
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