Commissioner Heather Johnson of the Department of Economic and Community Development is pictured in her office in Augusta on Sept. 10. Credit: Natalie Williams | BDN

Some 2,400 Maine small businesses and nonprofits that won a first round of federal pandemic stimulus grants in October should start getting checks as early as next week, a state economic development official said Wednesday.

The grants, which are being awarded in two rounds by the state of Maine, are part of the $200 million in federal CARES Act funds that Gov. Janet Mills allocated for struggling businesses and nonprofits. Applications for the second round are being reviewed now. The CARES Act funds must be spent by the states by Dec. 30.

While the money still falls short of the $300 million recommended by the governor’s economic recovery committee, the average grant of $45,000 will give a boost to businesses at a time when a second federal stimulus bill is in limbo. The grant money can be used to pay rent and utilities and to buy business-related equipment or personal protective equipment.

“Businesses should keep their eyes looking out for the checks as early as next week,” Jonathan Poole, business development manager at the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, said. Poole, who heads the grant program, made his comments during the department’s regular monthly teleconference call with businesses.

He said businesses that applied for the second round should hear whether they won a grant by the end of November and get the money in early December. That round will dole out about $95 million in total plus any extra money from the first round.

Heather Johnson, commissioner of the department, said it’s not clear yet how much of the approximately $105,000 will be left over from the first round of grants because some of those winners declined the money, hoping to get more by applying for the second round of grants. The second round of grants also was expanded to include companies with up to 250 employees, childcare businesses and new businesses. The new businesses weren’t included in the first round because they don’t have a financial track record, so the economic development department has partnered with the Maine Technology Institute and other organizations to help review those applications, Johnson said.

Johnson said a third round of grants is unlikely, but “we are looking at additional support options [for businesses].”