HELENA — More than 9,600 COVID-19 relief grant applications have been submitted to the State of Montana since applications opened last Thursday.
Last week, Governor Bullock announced $123 million in CARES Act funding for nine new grant programs that are designed to address key COVID-19 issues Montanans are facing.
As of the beginning of the business day May 13, the Montana Department of Commerce has received 9,677 grant applications.
The majority of grant applications, 7,045, are for the Montana Business Stabilization Grant program. According to the state, around 5,000 of those applications were submitted whthin the first 24 hours of applications being accepted.
“The demand has been very clear and quick, said Director Tara Rice, Montana Department of Commerce. “One thing that was clear during [the Coronavirus Relief Fund Task Force process, is that businesses needed swift support in the form of a grant. There were some businesses in which a loan just wasn’t the right tool to get them through.”
The Montana Business Stabilization Grant program provides working capital for Montana-owned small businesses with 50 or fewer employees that have sustained a loss of revenue due to COVID-19.
It’s no secret that all businesses in Montana are affected by COVID-19 in one way or the other, but for mainstreet businesses any kind of help right now is desperately needed.
"It's a huge unknown right now," said Sandy Shull, owner of Brids & Beasleys. "I think Montana has done very well at sheltering in home and taking care of it’s population because we don’t have the large population we haven’t had the outbreak, but we’re also a small economy that depends severely on tourism."
Shull says her business was down 50 percent in April, and with June, July and August are their biggest months. She's still waiting to here the status of her state grant application, but says any help right now is a gift.
Birds & Beasleys were able to reopen last week for Mother's Day shoppers. They were able to bring back their employees due to funding from the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program.
Shull says right now it's been a lot of adapting to and every changing COVID-19 landscape.
"You don’t know what’s going to happen. So we’re kind of preparing for anything we can do to relieve some of that burden," said Shull.
Here is the breakdown of grant applications to other Coronavirus Relief Fund programs:
- Social Services/non-profit grants: 825
- Innovation grant program: 650
- Emergency Housing grants: 597
- Agriculture Adaptability grants: 297
- Stay Connected grants: 105
- Food Bank grants: 96
- Public Health program grants: 62
The first group of grant award letters went out Tuesday May 12, and money will be sent to those approved grant applications as soon as banking information is confirmed.
Rice strongly encourages businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 submit an application.
The state will use this first round of grants to see where the highest demands are, and adapt later rounds of funding to meet the needs of Montanans at those times.
"Any later rounds of grants will be informed by what we learn in this round, and also what we learn in terms of gaps," said Rice. "One of the things the Coronavirus Relief Grant Fund programs are aiming to do is fill gaps that haven't been addressed by other programs. Whether that's federal programs the Department of Agriculture has ruled out, whetehr that's particular programs within the CARES Act, this is looking to figure out where the gaps are and step in and support in places where there isn't other support."