“Smallest of small” businesses targeted for Covid-19 relief

Isabella Casillas Guzman

The federal Paycheck Protection Program officially ended on Monday but there still are many programs available to help small businesses, including grants for business assistance groups to support socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs. 

The new Community Navigator Pilot program, launched by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is offering grants of up to $5 million to nonprofits, chambers of commerce, and tribal and government agencies to conduct outreach to small businesses that were left out of previous federal relief efforts.

“These businesses – the smallest of the small in rural and urban America, and those owned by women, people of color, or veterans – have suffered the greatest economic loss from this pandemic,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the SBA, in announcing the launch. 

Mark Kelly

Arizona U.S. Senator Mark Kelly was among those who fought to include the program in the recent American Rescue Plan to help disadvantaged entrepreneurs, particularly in rural and tribal areas.   

“I’ve spoken to small businesses in every corner of Arizona. Far too many of them, especially tribal and minority-owned businesses and those in rural communities, have been unable to get the support they need,” Kelly said, adding that the pilot includes assistance in Spanish for business owners.

Organizations can apply for grants of up to $5 million 

Business assistance programs can use the Community Navigator grants for targeted outreach to help small businesses get the resources and support they need. This can include hiring staff dedicated to outreach activities and hiring culturally and linguistically knowledgeable experts – certified public accountants, attorneys, and other professionals – to work with business owners to complete applications for programs. 

Grant awards will range from $1 million to $5 million for a two-year performance period. Applicants have until July 12, 2021, to submit their applications at grants.gov

For more information, visit www.sba.gov/navigators

Many other grants, loans, programs available   

A number of other programs are available for small businesses, including these SBA programs: 

R&D accelerator competition The SBA recently launched its 6th annual Growth Accelerator Fund Competition to recognize “the most innovative organizations with inclusive approaches towards supporting entrepreneurs in research and development.” Prizes go to successful applicants focused on assisting women entrepreneurs, minority entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs building technologies to address key policy issues such as clean energy and supply chain resilience, or an underserved target group identified by the applicant such as rural, veterans and individuals with disabilities. Applications are being accepted until June 25.

Business development to compete for federal contracts The 8(a) Business Development program connects “socially and economically disadvantaged” small businesses with opportunities to compete for federal contracts, get assistance with navigating federal contracting, create joint ventures with mentor companies and receive training and development help. 

HUBZone Program The Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) Program works to give more contracting opportunities to small businesses located in HUBZones, which are typically areas with above-average economic development needs. To qualify, a company’s principal office must be located in a HUBZone, about a third of employees must live in a HUBZone, and the company must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, agricultural cooperative, Native Hawaiian organization, or Indian tribe.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Program The program works with veteran-owned small businesses to help them receive federal contracts. To qualify, a small business must be at least 51 percent owned, controlled and managed day-to-day by one or more service-disabled veterans. 

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer These two SBA programs were created to help small businesses compete with larger companies in the areas of research and technology. These programs provide grants to companies to help create physical and digital tools for federal agencies like the Department of Defense. Examples include advanced chemical compositions, military-grade sensors, radar devices, lasers, health monitoring tools, and high-tech clothing.

Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program The program helps women-owned businesses compete for federal contracts in industries where women-owned small businesses are underrepresented. A list of qualifying industries includes bakeries, commercial and industrial building construction, oil and gas pipeline construction, roofing contractors, sewage treatment facilities, tax preparation services and more. More information is available at: WOSB 

Even more…

To learn more about the many programs available for small businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled a list of more than than 30 grants, loans and programs at: Small business programs

Victoria Harker

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