HELENA — Just about every business has had to adapt to COVID-19 in one way or another, creating a financial strain for many organizations.
In addition to a drop in customers, the cost of safety precautions like masks and hand sanitizer can be a burden on organizations.
Since March, Blackfoot River Brewing Co. in Helena has moved to a growler pick up and delivery model, doubled their efforts on cleaning and increased outdoor seating.
Managing Partner Bethany Flint says thankfully they were a recipient of a Montana Coronavirus Relief Business Adaptability Grant.
“The loss from COVID has been huge and I know it’s been huge on all of the small businesses in town, so it’s really helpful to have funds to spend on things that we weren’t expecting,” said Flint. “Where we could spend those monies on something like health insurance for our staff or making sure our staff can stay on payroll.”
The State’s Business Adaptation Grant Program was created with federal Cares Act funding to help Montana small businesses adjust to the pandemic. The up to $5,000 grants are administered by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC).
The program was recently modified to include any Montana business, including nonprofits, that are registered with the Montana Secretary of State, regardless of the number of employees on staff.
“These additional costs weren’t planned for and they weren’t budgeted for, so having the ability to get a reimbursement for those costs I think has been really good for small businesses,” said Mark Bostrom, DNRC Conservation And Resource Development administrator.
Of the $20 million allocated to the program, Bostrom says under $1 million has been awarded as of July 7. He strongly encourages organizations that have incurred costs in adapting to COVID to apply to help ease any financial burden.
Eligible expenses include costs related to communication, remote work equipment, cleaning supplies, tools to enhance social distancing and sanitation, and travel/hotel costs related to quarantining workers.
Organizations can also submit any other expenses related to adapting their business for review.
“The application process was really pretty simple,” said Flint. “Having specific needs to lay out in the proposal was easy, and I think it’s been great working with DNRC on the process. The few questions they had about our proposal, they got back to us right away. Some businesses are struggling more than others, but the money is there for all of us to make sure we’re rebounding and are able to keep our businesses open.”
More information about the Montana Business Adaptation Program and how to apply for a grant can be found here.