Window opens Monday for state grants to help hospitality, service sectors struggling in pandemic

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 784 views 

A $50 million grant program for hospitality and service sector businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic launches Monday (Nov. 16) and state government leaders expect to make grant awards in late December.

Stacy Hurst, Arkansas Secretary for Parks, Heritage and Tourism, said the grants will hopefully help those hard-hit businesses stay alive until COVID-19 is under control.

“We settled on this approach, which is a business interruption grant. And we’re hoping that we can get some money to those that need it most to help them stay afloat a little longer in this COVID economy,” she said in a Talk Business & Politics interview.

The grant will provide reimbursement for a portion of specific eligible expenses incurred by businesses in these industries between March 1 and Sept. 30, 2020.

The grant application period opens Monday, Nov. 16 and closes 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 $50 million program anticipates making grant awards in late December.

Arkansas 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. Hurst said there are limitations on how the money can be spent.

“The federal guidelines require that we use or grant the money out in a certain way. And so, the way that we will be allowing application is for expense reimbursement, and there are specific expenses that are allowed by the feds that businesses can claim reimbursement for. It’s not a revenue replacement program, but we can cover lost revenue to the extent that your business has been impacted, for example, from COVID,” she said.

“So, our formula is this: that we will allow businesses that are eligible to apply for reimbursement on certain expenses. And then, we will also look at the change in sales tax revenue from 2019 to 2020. So, for those businesses that are eligible, DF&A will provide sales tax revenue from 2019 to 2020 and we’ll look at the change. So, that will be an indicator of economic impact,” she added.

Hurst said that if more federal funding is approved, there could be more help on the way in 2021, but that most likely depends on Congress and a new Biden administration.

“If there’s a second round of funding, that will certainly be a possibility. This grant, we’ll be getting it out at the very end of December, and so our period of time that we have to disburse the money will have closed on December 31st,” Hurst said. “Now, I’m not going to say absolutely not, but I don’t think there will be an opportunity with this first round of funding [to do more]. But should Congress decide a second round is coming our way, that could be a possibility.”

Details regarding the grant rules can be accessed here. You can watch Hurst’s full interview in the video below.