From the beautiful hallways of your historic state Capitol, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Every aspect of the hospitality industry has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, including hotels, restaurants, special event venues and tourist destinations.
Every October I enjoy going to the county fair and the state fair, but the experience is just not the same this year because they have all had to scale back so much.
That’s why it came as no surprise that the Legislative Council supported creation of a $48.5 million grant program to help businesses that have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
The grants will be available to small businesses that hire up to 250 full-time employees.
They can be used to defray expenses caused by the need to mitigate covid-19 – such as protective equipment, supplies needed to sterilize surfaces and plexiglass shields.
The grants also can be used for expenses caused by government order that interrupted business activity, whether it was a local government, the state or a federal mandate.
For example, a business that was forced to close may use the grants for rent or mortgage payments, franchise fees, insurance and payroll costs.
Keep in mind that the grant may not be spent for some expenses, such as taxes, lost profits, entertainment or lobbying expenses, depreciation and severance pay.
An individual business can qualify for a grant of up to $250,000. The Parks, Heritage and Tourism Department and the Department of Commerce will review grant applications.
One goal is to dedicate at least 15 percent of the grants to businesses owned by minorities and women.
The application period is from November 16 and through November 25. The goal is to announce the recipients of the grants by late December.
Depending on the number of applicants, grants may be awarded on a prorated basis.
One factor that the review committee will consider is the difference in the sales tax that a business paid from March through September of last year, as compared with the same period in 2020.
One of the larger expenditures approved by the Legislative Council was for $25 million, to match federal dollars and pay unemployment insurance benefits, to workers who have lost their jobs.
The Legislative Council also voted to use $4.24 million for rental assistance, as well as $5 million for suicide prevention and mental health treatment for veterans.
Also, about $5.5 million in relief funds will go to small-scale meat processing plants.
The purpose is to help smaller businesses while strengthening our capacity to withstand any further disruptions in the supply chain in the meat industry.
From the Capitol, it is always my greatest honor and most sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.