A grant program to alleviate struggling small companies and nonprofits in Maine attracted fewer potential awardees than some anticipated, regardless of a last-minute flurry of functions.
As of a midnight deadline Wednesday, about 4,000 organizations had utilized to the Maine Financial Restoration Grant program. That determine was about one-third lower than anticipated and will have been the results of employers not realizing about this system or believing they wouldn’t qualify for help.
Roughly 1,000 functions have been submitted after midday on Wednesday, in line with the Maine Division of Financial and Neighborhood Growth. A final-minute rush to use for grants of as much as $100,000 was anticipated by state authorities. Solely about 830 organizations had utilized as of final week, worrying some economic development agencies.
The Better Portland Council of Governments, certainly one of seven financial growth districts overseeing this system, obtained numerous functions within the final two days earlier than the deadline, mentioned Finance Director Josh Kochis.
However the whole quantity obtained was nonetheless far fewer than the 6,000 grants the state anticipated, Kochis mentioned.
“We had a extremely huge surge of functions in the previous couple of days of the appliance interval, so we’re actually joyful about that, however I can’t pinpoint the precise the explanation why we didn’t get the turnout we have been hoping for,” he mentioned.
The $200 million program was launched by Gov. Janet Mills administration in late August, utilizing federal cash awarded to the state. It was supposed to assist among the companies hit hardest through the pandemic-induced financial downturn.
However eligibility restrictions could have suppressed curiosity. Grants have been out there to Maine-based firms with 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent staff that demonstrated a projected income lack of at the least 20 % since March due to the pandemic, amongst different guidelines.
These restrictions deprived and even excluded among the state’s hospitality companies that have been damage by pandemic restrictions and suppressed tourism, mentioned Steve Hewins, president of commerce group HospitalityMaine.
The grant program is one other instance of the state authorities “believing they know (what’s) greatest concerning the economic system, after which overthinking and under-delivering, significantly to the hospitality trade,” Hewins mentioned.
Maine’s grant program got here out later, and will show much less useful, than comparable preparations in close by New England states, Hewins added. A Vermont program provided almost $104 million to about 3,500 companies in $50,000 grants between July and August. Sure candidates have been later eligible for an extra $100,000 of help. New Hampshire has, since June, offered greater than $380 million in grants to over 10,600 organizations by way of its Main Street Relief fund.
Arts nonprofits and others even have complained that this system will disadvantage their organizations and award grants to people who have misplaced essentially the most cash, not essentially those who made prudent enterprise selections however nonetheless need assistance.
Candidates to the Maine grant program might be knowledgeable of their award by the top of the month, and cash ought to begin arriving Oct. 1, in line with the Division of Financial and Neighborhood Growth. Grant awards might be based mostly on an a company’s particular person losses proportional to losses for the whole group of candidates.
The difficult components and in depth utility have left some small enterprises unsure about how a lot they may obtain, if something in any respect.
“Frankly, I don’t know how they will determine this – this can be very opaque,” mentioned Peter Leavitt, proprietor of Leavitt and Sons Deli, which has areas in Falmouth and Portland. Leavitt mentioned he and his accountant have been confused by the state’s guidelines and needed to resubmit his utility with corrected numbers.
“Anybody who’s making use of is being damage proper now and will use the cash,” he mentioned. “I don’t know how they will decide the winners and losers on this.”
Leavitt shortened his hours, eradicated indoor service and reduce workers to make it by way of the downturn. He thinks he’s doing about half the traditional enterprise on the Portland location and is about 40 % down in Falmouth. He expects the winter months to be even harder for the corporate.
“I don’t see any finish to this. I might be very shocked if even by subsequent summer time issues have been again to any semblance of regular,” Leavitt mentioned. “The fallout from that is going to be (for) a big period of time.”
Adria Moynihan Rusk, who taught portray at a Portland studio earlier than the pandemic, utilized for a grant however doubts she’ll get an award. Help from the federal Paycheck Safety Program and a few small grants stored her afloat by way of the spring, nevertheless it’s all gone now. She hopes accepting that help gained’t diminish her possibilities for a grant.
“I didn’t actually really feel the impression of this till after June,” Rusk mentioned. “I’m feeling it the worst now, the lack of income and the lack of help.”
She mentioned lots of her associates who personal small companies by no means utilized for the grants as a result of they have been certain they’d not qualify.
Rusk is doing a little on-line educating, and her college students need to get again into the studio for in-person courses. She hopes to restart quickly in a downsized house and is attempting to remain optimistic concerning the future.
“Companies like mine are fairly scrappy to start with; we’re used to having tough durations,” Rusk mentioned. “I’m hopeful we’ll be capable of get by way of this one, too.”
The state has not mentioned what it intends do if the $200 million fund just isn’t spent fully, however the grants have been thought-about an preliminary funding with the potential for future funding relying on extra federal help.
“As soon as the deadline has handed and the functions have been reviewed, the division will be capable of consider what extra grants, if any funding is offered, could also be given,” mentioned financial growth division spokeswoman Kate Foye.