CORONAVIRUS

Iowa small business grants get $35 million federal infusion

#x201c;As of today, a total of more than 2,600 restaurants, breweries, florists, salons, boutiques, gyms and a wide arra
“As of today, a total of more than 2,600 restaurants, breweries, florists, salons, boutiques, gyms and a wide array of other small businesses that line the streets of communities in all 99 counties have been awarded Small Business Relief Grants for a total of approximately $50 million,” says Debbie Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority. (Olivia Sun/The Des Moines Register)

JOHNSTON — State aid to small businesses in Iowa reeling from the onset of the coronavirus epidemic and the government-ordered closings that followed has grown to more than $50 million and continues to rise, according to the head of the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

IEDA Director Debi Durham told reporters Thursday the state’s small business relief programs quickly handed out its initial $24 million in state help and added another $28.4 million in a second phase made possible by a share of Iowa’s $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act economic stimulus money.

“As of today, a total of more than 2,600 restaurants, breweries, florists, salons, boutiques, gyms and a wide array of other small businesses that line the streets of communities in all 99 counties have been awarded Small Business Relief Grants for a total of approximately $50 million,” Durham said.

IEDA spokeswoman Kanan Kappelman said the new financial infusion was made possible by an addition of $35 million in federal stimulus funds.

The money comes as restaurants, malls, fitness centers and other businesses in 77 of Iowa’s 99 counties prepare to reopen operations Friday as Gov. Kim Reynolds takes a phase-in approach to rekindling Iowa’s struggling economy.

“We know that every day that goes by right now is a critical one for so many Iowans,” Durham told reporters Thursday in indicating that more businesses around Iowa are being notified they are receiving grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

About 1,400 businesses submitted applications for about $148 million in government assistance.

Those requests Durham said were “triaged” so thousands of applicants could begin receiving grants in early April, with more help on its way now as businesses are notified they are getting grants.

A list of businesses with between two and 25 employees receiving state grants has been posted at iowabusinessrecovery.com. The state and federal money is being distributed to help Iowans weather the effects of the pandemic and the related state orders to close temporarily that were implemented as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I can tell you that the spirit of our business owners remains resilient, strong and hopeful for tomorrow,” Durham said during the governor’s daily COVID-19 briefing at the state’s emergency operations center.

“Our team is fueled from the notes that have been pouring in from all over our state from business that are telling us they are hanging on and hope they see us upon their reopening,” added Durham, who expected nearly $60 million will have been handed out to thousands of Iowa small businesses once the second round of grants has been awarded.

Durham has indicated that many of the first grant recipients were restaurants, bars, breweries and other small businesses hit by the first wave of closures ordered last month to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Iowa officials announced last month they were making $4 million in state assistance available to small businesses — especially those in “consumer-facing” industries” — as a “stopgap” measure for up to 30 days to supplement federal aid.

That was expanded by $20 million earlier this month to aid businesses that Durham described as “the backbones of our communities.”

The state program is designed to offer eligible small businesses grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 in addition to providing businesses with a deferral of sales and use or withholding taxes due and waiver of penalty and interest.

To be eligible for a small business relief grant, businesses must be experiencing disruption due to the pandemic and have employed between two and 25 people before March 17.

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The state grants are intended to assist eligible businesses maintain operations or reopen, and the funds may not be used to pay debts incurred before March 17.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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