We’re keeping this up to date to help you through COVID-19.
Last update was February 10, 2022.
We don’t need to tell you that the pandemic has hit hard, especially for small businesses. Even with lockdown restrictions easing up, we are far from back to normal as a country and economy. Luckily for small business owners, the federal government as well as states and other organizations, have stepped up to provide assistance to small businesses as we work towards rebuilding. We’ve skipped the headlines and the chatter to get right down to what’s available to you, and how to get it.
Below is a comprehensive guide to all of your options currently, from the familiar SBA grants and loans we know and love, to lesser known tax credits and other grants.
(Be sure to bookmark this page and check back regularly as we will continue to update this as any new developments are announced from the Small Business Administration!)
PPP loan applications officially closed on May 31, 2021 as the funds available allocated by the government were exhausted shortly sooner than many analysts predicted originally. It’s essential to know that existing borrowers may be eligible for PPP loan forgiveness, meaning they do not need to be repaid (read: free money)
In this article, we will explore how PPP loan forgiveness works, how you can apply, and everything else you need to know about the program.
Businesses who have already drawn a round of PPP qualify for second draw PPP. Second draw PPP faces the same issues as first draw PPP: although applications are open until May 31, funds are no longer available.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) is designed to help restaurants and other eligible businesses (including bars, food trucks, and bakeries, among others) get back on their feet after over a year of shutdowns and reduced capacity. If approved, the RRF will provide restaurants with “funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.”
Applications closed on May 24, 2021.
For live venue operators, theaters, museums, and other eligible venue operators that were particularly impacted by shutdowns during coronavirus, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) can be a good option. There is one caveat: if you received a PPP loan on or after December 27, 2020, you will have the SVOG reduced by the PPP loan amount.
The SBA's new Community Navigator Pilot Program was established as part of the American Rescue Plan. It's designed to reach those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic — "the smallest of the small" businesses in rural and urban areas, as well as those owned by women, people of color, Native Americans, and veterans. The Community Navigator Pilot Program will provide networking, counseling, and other support, in addition to $1 million to $5 million grants for a two-year performance period. Applications are open through grants.gov, and recipients will be announced in August with a period commencement of September 2021.
If you have an existing 7(a), 504, or Microloan SBA loan, then there is no action required to take part in the SBA debt relief program. As a part of the CARES Act, the SBA is authorized to pay six months of principal, interest, and any associated fees that borrowers owe on qualifying loans. Note that these do not include PPP or other COVID-19 relief.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Grant is designed to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue due to the pandemic. In order to qualify, businesses need to have suffered a revenue loss greater than 30% over specified time periods, be located in a low-income community, employ no more than 300 employees, and have been in operation before January 31, 2020. To learn more, read our full guide to the EIDL grant.
There are a lot of options available through the SBA for COVID-19 relief, and many businesses may qualify for more than one grant or loan. Before you apply, be sure to check your cross-program eligibility. Also keep in mind that the SBA doesn’t fund loans; their funding partners do. Be sure to talk to your lender about fund availability and which options are right for you.
For many small businesses, employees can be closer to family. The Employee Retention Credit is available for businesses with less than 100 employees who have either seen revenues decline or been at least partially closed during COVID-19, and have kept their employees on payroll. For the rest of 2021, the Employee Retention Credit allows you to claim up to $28,000 per employee ($7,000 per quarter), which can go a long way in keeping your whole team on payroll.
During a pandemic, your employees are likely going to need to take more sick time and paid leave to care for themselves and others in the case of illness. Through September 30, 2021, you can claim paid leave due to pandemic-related illness or consequences dollar for dollar (and you can even claim the credit quarterly) through the Paid Leave Credit.
The Paid Leave and Employee Retention Credits aren’t the only tax credits available. Check out our full list of COVID-19 relief tax credits. Some of the credits on this list have been extended through 2022, and some are always available. Be sure to check with your accountant to see what you qualify for.
The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) Rapid Response Program was designed to provide grants in underserved communities that had been hard-hit by coronavirus. Applications are closed as of March 2021, but the CDFI always has grants and other opportunities available for distressed and underserved communities and people.
Like the SBA, the CDFI Fund doesn’t loan directly to small businesses; instead, it relies on a network of CDFIs, which include banks, credit unions, and venture capital funds. CDFIs typically service underserved people and communities, and they do so even under non-pandemic-related circumstances. To find a certified provider, check out the CDFI database, and contact a funding partner directly to see if you qualify.
You may have heard that the US federal government is injecting $10 billion into small businesses as part of the coronavirus package passed in March 2021. The funds are being distributed through the states and tribal governments, with incentives in place to get more of the funds into the hands of socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.
Collecting aid will fall under state programs, so you’ll need to check with your state or tribal government to see what is available in the way of grants, loans, and other special financial products. You’ll also have to see if your state or tribal government has even applied — each of these must file and be approved to receive the aid. If a state did not complete the application process, then the law allows municipalities to apply. So, if your state doesn’t have a program, then check if your city does.
The LISC provides flexible loans for those in underserved communities. They typically finance development projects such as for rental housing, schools, and healthcare facilities. However, they can also help with leasehold improvements, remodel and/or expansion, and fixtures, furniture, and equipment with their Leasehold Improvement/ FF&E Loans. That can be a major win for brick and mortar businesses.
Applications are currently closed, but FedEx holds a small business contest every year where businesses can compete for grants and FedEx Office print services. Though the contest receives thousands of entrants, there are multiple winners every cycle.
NASE offers Growth Grants in the amount of $4,000 every month to one winner. The only catch is that you need to be a member. Membership costs $120 per year and includes access to resources that can help you grow your business.
Street Shares has their Veteran Small Business Award through the Street Shares Foundation. Applications are currently closed, but last year, three awards were given in $4,000, $6,000, and $15,000 amounts.
There are many, many grants available to small businesses in all niches and growth stages.
Grants.gov has a robust database that you can search by keywords, eligibility, category, and more. Eligibility requirements and application deadlines vary.
COVID-19 has hit small businesses hard. Unfortunately, there are so many businesses that need financial relief that many of the pandemic-specific related funding has either dried up or will go away soon. That’s not to say you shouldn’t apply anyway — rather, you should be aware of all of your options and try to diversify your efforts. If all else fails, there are always business credit cards and other loan products that, used responsibly and strategically, can help get you through these difficult times. Good luck out there, we’re rooting for you!