AUGUSTA, Maine — Gov. Janet Mills announced a new business grant program on Monday aimed at targeting hard-hit businesses in Maine’s retail and hospitality industries that face a tough winter ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic and economic recession.
The effort, called the Tourism, Hospitality and Retail Recovery Grant Program, takes $30 million in existing funds left over from a $200 million small business grant program the state launched in August and adds $10 million in additional funding from an allotment Maine received through a March stimulus package.
It is the second grant program from Mills’ administration aimed at boosting small businesses, after the first program provided $158.6 million to 3,551 businesses and nonprofits, according to the governor’s office. Businesses awarded grants through that program began receiving money earlier this month.
The new program makes several changes to its funding formula compared to the first grant program, evaluating need based on gross sales lost between March and September of this year compared to the same time in 2019. The earlier program looked at losses between January and June, which could underestimate losses for seasonal businesses. Mills’ administration said Monday that the formula should allow a broader range of businesses to receive support.
Unlike the earlier program, eligibility for the new program is not based on the number of employees, though businesses with gross sales of more than $12 million per year are not eligible. The maximum grant amount is $20,000.
Seasonal and tourism businesses have been among the hardest hit in Maine amid the coronavirus pandemic as the virus slowed travel to the state this summer and continues to restrict the availability of indoor dining.
Mills’ economic recovery committee called for $300 million in aid for businesses earlier this year. The Democratic governor on Monday called for additional federal aid to help businesses in the state.
Applications for the new program will be processed through the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development and will be available on the agency’s website at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The funding will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. All federal funds must be designated by Dec. 30.