There have been a number of ways for businesses to seek emergency government funding to help weather the economic hardship wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most prominent has been the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which has doled out more than $510 billion CARES Act funding in forgivable loans to (mostly) small businesses, though not without some controversy.
Congress also made CARES Act funds available to the states for coronavirus relief, and Gov. Chris Sununu and his Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery has granted much of that through various relief funds set up to address specific sectors and needs. Examples include grant funds to support New Hampshire farmers, childcare providers and health and long-term care providers. For businesses that didn’t fit into specific categories targeted by the state there are more general funds through which CARES Act money has been or will shortly be granted by the state to small businesses, nonprofit organizations and self-employed businesses.
In all, the Governor’s Office lists 13 separate coronavirus relief funds or programs. Even so, there’s a concern that they don’t fully cover the waterfront, so to speak, and that some businesses in need have not yet been able to tap into the state-granted funds. Recognizing that, Sununu announced last week another relief fund that any business left out so far should consider applying to, and soon.
Called the N.H. General Assistance and Preservation — or GAP — Fund, the program aims to make $30 million of CARES Act funding available to New Hampshire businesses and nonprofit organizations that have been unable to access funds from other existing state and federal programs. Administered by the state’s Business Finance Authority, the idea, as the program’s acronym suggests, is to provide relief for businesses that have, in the governor’s words, “fallen through the gap” between the other programs.
Among previously left-out organizations that might, according to Sununu, be eligible are newer businesses that started up in the past year and franchises. But he has also emphasized that even businesses that were denied access to other funds for technicalities, such as providing incorrect information in applications, could be eligible for a GAP Fund grant.
The eligibility criteria put out by the Governor’s Office are limited. Self-employed for-profit businesses without any non-owner employees and 501c(3) and 501c(6) not-for-profit organizations are ineligible, presumably because they were specifically targeted by other relief funds made available by the state. Otherwise, in addition to some commonsense eligibility criteria, such as still being in operation and not in bankruptcy, applicants will need to demonstrate that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a quantifiable financial impact on their business.
In announcing the GAP Fund, the governor cautioned that the application process might be “a little more in-depth” than that for the other relief funds, though he stressed that’s intended to give the BFA more discretion in examining why a business might have been previously excluded. And, indeed, the Governor’s Office website notes that a business that received coronavirus relief funds from another state program is not automatically disqualified, though the amount will be considered.
Time is short, however, and applications are due in just one week, on Monday, Aug. 4. Moreover, applications must be submitted online and require an accompanying worksheet of certain financial and other supporting information. For that reason, both the BFA and the Governor’s Office are urging those interested in applying to participate in an instructional, free webinar to learn about the application process and how to qualify for the relief funds. With the application window closing in a week, the final webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, July 28, at 2 p.m. More information about the GAP Fund and links to register for the webinar and to access application forms and worksheets are available on the Governor’s Office website at www.goferr.nh.gov/GAP.
Businesses that have been feeling left out as others received government relief funds now have their chance to participate. But to do so, they must act fast.