Westchester County officials announced a $10 million grant program Wednesday to help sustain small businesses and nonprofit organizations who have been significantly hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applications for the Business FIRST initiative will be accepted starting Monday morning and extend through the end of the month, said the county’s Director of Economic Development Bridget Gibbons. Each outfit would be able to request up to $49,000, she said.
Businesses and organizations with less than 100 employees will be eligible for the program. The money comes from funds the county received from the CARES Act, legislation Congress passed in the spring to provide COVID-19 relief.
County Executive George Latimer said the program’s goal is to bring immediate financial relief to businesses that provide thousands of jobs in Westchester.
“All of these organizations employ critical jobs to the extent that we’ve had a job loss to certain businesses that have had to close,” Latimer said. “We want to try to stabilize those that are in difficult situations and we can provide perhaps the bridge to these grants that may make the difference.”
In addition to the employee limit, representatives of businesses and organizations must demonstrate that they have suffered a 25 percent revenue loss since Mar. 7 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency, were financially viable prior to the crisis and are in good standing with the county, Gibbons said. All types of businesses would be eligible to seek the grant.
“We’re really trying to work with our businesses to get the money out there and have them use it for what they need to help their businesses get back on track,” Gibbons said.
Grant money could be used toward retaining or hiring employees, paying employee benefits increasing technology capability and upgrading or buying safety equipment, among other uses.
The county would prefer that businesses who received assistance through the Payroll Protection Program or the Emergency Disaster Program use the money for different purposes if they are approved for the grant, Gibbons said.
Dr. Marsha Gordon, president of the Westchester Business Council, applauded the county’s efforts to get money to business owners and nonprofit organizations.
“These are really the engines of our economy, employing so, so many in our county,” Gordon said. “These sectors have been especially hard hit and desperately need any financial resources to survive.”
Competition for the funds is expected to be fierce. There are about 39,000 small businesses in Westchester, not nearly enough to fund the likely widespread need, Gibbons said. A survey of businesses in the county found that about 75 percent of respondents have suffered losses since the onset of the pandemic about six months ago, she said.
Applications are expected to be approved by mid-October with funds disbursed by early November.
Gibbons said businesses that are not approved for the grant would have their applications remain on file in the Office of Economic Development in the event that additional funds become available.
“This is a partnership, this is an effort to work with businesses, in this case businesses of a certain size or smaller that may not have access to some of the capital resources that larger businesses do,” Latimer said.
Applications will be accepted starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21 and will be accepted until midnight on Sept. 30. To submit applications or for more information, visit https://westchestercatalyst.com/business-FIRST-programs/