Massachusetts Statewide COVID Relief Grants for Small Businesses
In October 2020, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts under Governor Baker and Secretary Kennealy unveiled a multi-million dollar COVID relief program for small business owners statewide, the latest and largest of its efforts to support small businesses statewide most impacted since the COVID pandemic started.
According to Larry Andrews, CEO of Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC), the quasi government agency charged with administering the program, an additional $668 million was awarded to continue to support two grants programs started back in September 2020 by the Commonwealth: one for $25,000 for business owners with 5 employees or less, and another for $75,000 for those with 50 employees or less. This time however two grant programs are being tailored to focus on specific sectors that had been left behind the previous round of funding support and those businesses whose failure impacted communities of color, women, veterans and other minority groups. This is different from the Commonwealth’s September 2020 grant program rollout that targeted larger businesses not specifically owned by minorities, but largely operated by those from marginalized communities and backgrounds.
The October 2020 round of grants has been highly impactful for small minority owned and operated businesses, who had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic in both a clinical and economic aspect. According to Larry Andrews, “this rollout targeted businesses that have been dealing with the public health crisis of COVID, which are predominantly communities of color, and which have been impacted by the economic crisis of COVID the most as well”. It was able to target the prioritized minority groups, of which 35% of applicants ended up being minority businesses. The grant programs, which continue to be oversubscribed since their inception, have received much positive acclaim by the businesses who received them, as they made a tremendous difference for businesses that needed funding support the most, most of which faced serious uncertainty of survival before receiving the support.
Andrews also mentioned recently distributing $35 million of the state funding it received to community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to directly aid small businesses still struggling, most of which were ineligible for the previous grants offered under MGCC. This is in addition to its crowdsourcing program, BIzMPower, that was established to address the lack of equity and access to capital among minority-owned small businesses. Through the crowdsourcing program, MGCC is matching the crowdsourcing efforts and working with its agency partners to identify the businesses that meet the criteria. MGCC is also working on addressing the digital divide to ensure business owners statewide can access resources among other things online. In the words of Larry Andrews, “so much of what we have been experiencing before the pandemic– disparities in business opportunity and the digital divide with limited access to technology –has been exacerbated now, and fortunately we have been given a grant to address this in the coming months, allowing the small businesses struggling the most to pivot to online platforms and utilize digital tools to their benefit during the pandemic and beyond”.
To access information and about the statewide business relief grants, please visit: https://www.empoweringsmallbusiness.org.