Virginia governor expands small business grant funding, eligibility

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Virginia’s Rebuild VA Grant program will increase the amount of money small businesses and nonprofits can receive and loosen eligibility requirements, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday.

Virginia businesses that receive less than $10 million in gross revenue or have fewer than 250 employees now will be eligible for grant money. The maximum amount of money a small business can receive will increase from $10,000 to $100,000. The businesses will have to show they have been economically harmed by the governor’s executive orders designed to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Eligible businesses include restaurants, retail shops, summer camps and farmers, among others.

Northam directed an additional $30 million of federal COVID-19 relief money to the program to support the expansion. The program initially launched in August with $70 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

“We started Rebuild VA to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Northam said in a statement. “These changes to the program will ensure that we can provide additional financial assistance to even more Virginians so they can weather this public health crisis and emerge stronger.”

The grants can be used for payroll support; employee salaries; mortgage, rent and utility payments; personal protective equipment, cleaning materials and other materials related to the COVID-19 response; and principal and interest payments on business loans incurred before or during the state of emergency.

Northam’s announcement received praise from members of the business community at a time when additional federal relief is being held up in Congress.

“Today many [National Federation of Independent Business] small business owners from all over Virginia told Governor Northam directly about the predicaments they face recovering financially from the economic crisis,” NFIB Virginia State Director Nicole Riley said in a statement.

The NFIB is the largest small business association in the country.

“We heard from several (small business owners) that they would be helped by the Rebuild VA grants, but the restrictive rules on eligibility made that impossible,” Riley said. “Hearing the announcement about the additional funds and expanded flexibility immediately afterward offered great hope to these small business owners that they may be able to make it through the pandemic and remain in business.”

The governor made the announcement after a Zoom call with Virginia businesses about their economic struggles during the pandemic. The funding is administered by the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity in partnership with other state departments.

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