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Mills launches $40M grant program to support Maine tourism, hospitality, and small businesses

The grant program utilizes $30 million in funds remaining from the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program and $10 million in additional CRF monies dedicated by Mills
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills on Monday announced a new recovery grant program focused specifically on supporting Maine’s service sector small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which are are now facing additional challenges during the winter months.

 Dubbed the “Tourism, Hospitality & Recovery Grant Program,” which is backed by $40 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF), Mills says the program will “support tens of thousands of jobs across the state.”

“In the face of this unrelenting pandemic, many of these businesses have adapted with classic Maine grit and resilience but still face historic and unprecedented challenges,” Mills said in a release. “I hope this program will help provide at least a small amount of financial support to sustain them through these difficult times. I continue to urge Congress to pass additional, robust relief for Maine people and businesses.”

The grant program utilizes $30 million in funds remaining from the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program and $10 million in additional CRF monies dedicated by Mills. In developing the program, the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) drew on recommendations from the tourism, hospitality, and retail industries to meet the distinct needs of those sectors.

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“COVID-19 has created an unprecedented financial crisis for businesses in the service industry in Maine and throughout the country,” Heather Johnson, commissioner of the DECD, said in a release. “With input from this industry sector, we have created a grant program that allows businesses to determine their most urgent needs specific to their individual business.”

Like the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program, a business must demonstrate a need for financial relief. However, the Tourism, Hospitality & Retail Recovery Grant Program will evaluate need based on gross sales loss between March and September 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. Previously, the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program evaluated loss based on revenues minus expenses incurred during two different periods of 2020. The Mills administration says this targeted change will allow a wider range of businesses to receive support.

DECD will again partner with some of the Economic Development Districts to administer the program. Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis which will allow for funding to be dispersed as applications are received and reviewed. The application portal will open Wednesday, December 2, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. on DECD’s website and will remain open until funds are depleted. The application is expected to take about ten minutes to complete. Funds must be committed by December 30, 2020, per guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Grants may be used to cover expenses, including but not limited to:

  • Payroll costs and expenses
  • Rent or mortgage payments for business facilities
  • Utilities payments
  • Necessary operating expenses
  • Expenses incurred to replenish inventory or other necessary re-opening expenses
  • Purchase of personal protective equipment required by the business or business-related equipment

The Mills administration says funds must be spent on operations that are strictly within Maine, recipients are liable for any misuse of funds, and the grants are subject to audit.

The Tourism, Hospitality & Retail Recovery Grant program is the second grant program established by the Mills administration to provide financial relief for small businesses that incur business disruptions and added expenses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, the Mills administration launched the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program. In Phase 1 of the program, 2,329 grants – 2,072 to small businesses and 257 to non-profits – were awarded totaling $105 million and averaging just over $45,000 per award with recipients spanning the entire state.

The hospitality sector, particularly lodging and accommodations, represent the largest percentage of recipients, drawing 35 percent of the awards.

In Phase 2, which expanded the program to more businesses, the administration awarded 1,222 grants – 1,107 to businesses and 115 to non-profits – totaling $53.6 million and averaging just over $43,000 per award with recipients spanning the entire state. In total, the Maine Economic Recovery Grant Program provided $158.6 million to 3,551 businesses and non-profits.

The Mills administration says each of these programs are intended to help sustain the viability of Maine’s small, high-touch businesses and provide funds for short-term relief to help stabilize Maine’s economy while still focusing on the state’s long-term goals described in the state’s 10-year strategic economic development plan

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