By Jason Subik
Fulton County has been awarded a $500,000 Microenterprise U.S. CARES Act grant aimed at helping businesses with 25 employees or less that lost money in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The state approved the $500,000 COVID-related microenterprise grant on Sept. 9, and we just got the award letter this week,” Ron Peters, president and chief executive officer of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth said Friday.
The grant program is being administered by the center, which just recently closed-out the application period for a similar $300,000 Microenterprise grant program for businesses with five employees or less.
“We’ve already got applications that will total that earlier $300,000 grant,” Peters said. “Now we are out there getting information from the successful applicants, to back-up the applications and get those into the state. We’ve already sent five of them in. We have more than enough applicants to gobble it all up, but we don’t want to overwhelm the state, so we send them in a group at a time, as opposed to all at once.”
Peters said approval to receive grant funding from any of the microenterprise grant programs administered by the center includes a multi-step process, with applications first being approved by a local committee of Fulton County officials and then sent to the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal for final approval. He said the $300,000 grant had a two-year window for applications, but the $500,000 COVID-related grant is going to go faster, with a 12-month time frame for all applications to be received, processed and sent to the state.
“We can work with applicants now, but we’re going to have to have a public hearing before we can start submitting the applications, but that’ll be one of the final steps,” Peters said. “We like to get as much work done up front as possible.”
The Fulton County Center’s Economic Development Specialist Kenneth Adamczyk is the point person for working with potential applicants for the $500,000 in grant funding. Adamczyk said business owners who are interested in getting prequalified to apply for the money should contact the Fulton County Center’s office at (518) 725-7700 ext.1002, or stop by the organization’s office at 34 W Fulton St, Gloversville, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Adamczyk provided a list of some of the qualifying factors that a business must meet to be eligible for any portion of the $500,000 grant.
Here are some, although not all, of the grant rules for eligibility and funding:
— The business can be a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation, but it must be located in Fulton County and must be a for-profit entity, nonprofits are ineligible.
— The business must have been in operation during the 2019 year. Businesses, which opened after 2019, are not eligible.
— The business must have 25 or fewer employees at the time of application.
— The business must have operated at a loss during the 2020 year based on the 2020 tax return for the business, or if the business did not operate at a loss it must clearly demonstrate substantial cost reduction measures taken to avoid running at a loss, such as layoffs, or temporary shutdowns. These cost-cutting measures must be reflected by a comparison of the 2019 and 2020 tax returns for the business.
— Only businesses that can demonstrate a total gross revenue loss of at least 20% during 2020, compared to the 2019 tax year, are eligible for the funding.
— If the owner is low income, the owner may prove eligibility by providing copies of income tax returns (three years) to prove low income status. If the business has multiple owners, they must all be low income.
— If the business owner is not low income, the business can still qualify for funding by showing the funding will create or retain jobs if at least 51% of the jobs retained or jobs created are low or moderate income.
— For businesses that retain or create jobs, there will also be a cap based on the number of full time equivalent jobs retained or created by the business: one FTE job = maximum grant of $25,000; two FTE jobs = maximum grant of $40,000; three or more FTE jobs = maximum grant of $75,000. Businesses that qualify as owned by low-income owners will be limited to a grant of $25,000.
— Each proposed business grant must be reviewed and approved by the the Fulton County Center and the Fulton County Microenterprise Grant Committee, and is subject to approval by the New York State Office of Community Renewal.
— Passive investing is a prohibited use of funds. Grant funds may not be utilized for projects or activities that consist primarily of investing, speculation in real estate, or for such similar purposes. Apartment or commercial rental activities are not eligible. The businesses must actively provide goods and services, and employ persons on a regular daily basis providing such goods or services.
— The business must fully document all eligible expenditures by means of vendor invoices on vendors’ billhead. Hand written invoices on plain paper will not qualify.
— As a general rule, only costs incurred after grant approval by the the Fulton County Center and the Fulton County Microenterprise Grant Committee will be eligible for project costs. There may be an exception to that rule, based on demonstrated extreme hardship cases, and only upon approval by the New York State Office of Community Renewal.
— Grant funding is limited to non-construction expenditures. Construction, rehabilitation, and renovation activities are not eligible expenditures; such activities would trigger Federal Labor Standards and additional environmental requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act and State Environmental Quality Act (SEQRA).
— Business owners will be required to provide a minimum 10% cash match to the total documented project costs. Grant funds cannot exceed 90% of documented costs.
Peters said he thinks the $500,000 microenterprise grant might be ideally suited for a restaurant that was forced to close during the pandemic lockdown.
“A restaurant that took a real hit, because they were unable to serve sit-down dining or layoff employees or rely on only take-out orders — they would be an ideal candidate,” Peters said.
Adamczyk cautioned that applicants should be aware that the ability to demonstrate financial need will be crucial to successful applicants for the funding.
“Basically, they have to show how they were impacted by the pandemic, of course they’re looking for financial impact, but also in other situations like a gym that was forced to close for extended periods of time and all of the things they had to purchase to reopen,” Adamczyk said. “I am looking for businesses now.”