JOHNSTON — Iowa officials are making $4 million in state assistance available to adversely impacted small businesses, especially those in “consumer-facing” industries, as a stopgap measure for up to 30 days until more federal aid is approved to help deal with the expanding COVID-19 epidemic.
Debi Durham, director of the state Economic Development Authority, said a combination of grants, tax deferments and federal Small Business Administration loans are being offered to help small businesses struggling under a statewide executive order that has forced many non-essential businesses to close their doors and revamp their scaled-back services.
“I fully understand that this doesn’t make up for having your businesses close for a period of time or your customers staying home but it is our hope that we can help businesses weather this storm,” Gov. Kim Reynolds told a Monday afternoon news conference.
The new Iowa Small Business Relief Program is designed to offer eligible small businesses grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 in addition to offering Iowa businesses a deferral of sales and use or withholding taxes due and waiver of penalty and interest. Half the money is coming from the state’s economic emergency fund and half from the IEDA budget, Durham noted.
“Small businesses are the source of thriving main streets and community pride across Iowa,” the governor said. “The Small Business Relief Grant Program is another way we can support our small businesses during this unprecedented time.”
Durham said the new state programs are designed as short-term assistance to help get business owners through a difficult time. According to state jobless benefit requests, the hardest hit sectors are in accommodations and food services, followed by hourly workers in education services.
“This money we’re talking about is a stop gap,” she told reporters. “This is a stop gap to basically keep doors open and keeping as many people employed as possible.”
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To be eligible for a small-business relief grant, Durham said eligible businesses must be experiencing business disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have employed between two and 25 people before March 17.
The state grants are intended to assist eligible businesses in maintaining operations or reopening, and the funds may not be used to pay debts incurred before that March 17 date.
The IEDA will review grant applications for eligibility and will determine the grant amount by the level of impact including loss in sales revenue and employees, she added. Notification of award decisions and disbursement of grant funds will be expedited.
In addition, officials with the Iowa Department of Revenue said they will review each application as applicable, to determine if it is appropriate to grant a deferral of the eligible taxes and waiver of penalty and interest.
The dual application for grant assistance and tax deferral is available at iowabusinessrecovery.com, with a deadline to apply set for noon March 31.
“It’s clear from social media and news reports that Iowans are stepping up to try and support restaurants, bars and all of our small businesses and I want to thank every Iowan who has taken action with their own buying decisions to buy local and support Iowa’s small business owners and workers, Reynolds said.
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