The service, hospitality and tourism industry sectors have been some of the most hard-hit by business disruptions from the pandemic. But later this month businesses negatively impacted by restrictions instituted to reduce the number of cases of Covid-19 will have the opportunity to apply for a share of $50 million in grants available through the State of Arkansas through the federal CARES Act.
The Arkansas Legislative Council recently gave approval to the business interruption grants for certain Arkansas businesses in the personal care, tourism, travel, recreation and hospitality industries. The grant will provide reimbursement for a portion of specific eligible expenses incurred by businesses in these industries between March 1 and Sept. 30.
The grants are available through the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA). Melissa Whitfield, ADPHT chief of communications, has fielded a large number of calls from business owners interesting in applying for the grants.
“They want to make sure they are prepared to apply when the grant application period opens Monday, Nov. 16,” Whitfield said.
The grant applications close Wednesday, Nov. 25. Grants will be awarded on a prorated basis depending on the total number of applicants and the amount of reimbursement requested. The program anticipates making grant awards in late December.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in his visits with business owners over the past several months, he’s been impressed with the measures they have taken to protect customers and employees, and to adapt business models that have kept them viable during this pandemic.
“The grant will help businesses that were disrupted by the precautions necessary to mitigate the spread of Covid-19,” Hutchinson said.
Small businesses having 250 or fewer full-time employees located in Arkansas may seek reimbursement for expenses associated with Covid-19 mitigation or certain listed business interruption expenses due directly to local, state or federal government Covid-19 directives.
“We have heard the businesses in the hospitality and personal care industries who continue to be impacted by this pandemic and desperately need help to continue to operate and to do so safely,” secretary of the ADPHT Stacy Hurst, said. “With the help of AEDC and DFA, I think we have developed an excellent program that will provide the most help we can give where it is most sorely needed.”
Information will be regularly posted to ArkansasReady.com about the grant, the application period, training and a help line. Whitfield recommended looking at the portion with frequently asked questions, are grant rules, documents and checklists for applicants.
Businesses can apply for grants of up to $250,000 from the program called the Business Interruption Grant Program for the Arkansas Service and Hospitality Industries. Grants can be used to defray expenses caused by the need to mitigate covid-19, such as protective equipment, supplies needed to sterilize surfaces and plexiglass shields. The grants also can be used for expenses caused by government order that interrupted business activity, whether it was a local government, the state or a federal mandate. For example, a business that was forced to close may use the grants for rent or mortgage payments, franchise fees, insurance and payroll costs.
Grants may not be spent for certain expenses that include taxes, lost profits, entertainment or lobbying expenses, depreciation and severance pay. The program will allocate 15 percent of the grants to businesses owned by minorities and women. Grants will be awarded on a prorated basis; applicants may not be awarded the entire amount for which they applied. Recipients are expected to be announced by late December.
Arkansas now has about $81.6 million remaining unallocated from the original $1.25 billion the state received from the CARES Act.
Certain types of tourism-related activity are actually up since the state lockdown ended. Some lodging operations in Eureka Springs report that business has been even higher than normal in late summer and fall. Whitfield said state parks have been very busy.
“A lot of people want to get out, but be outside somewhere that it is safe,” Whitfield said. “So, the state parks have seen record numbers of visitors in recent months since the pandemic.”