This article first appeared on the Business Journals’ website.
The Small Business Administration is extending the deadline on a $100 million grant program designed to connect small businesses with SBA assistance and programs.
The ‘Community Navigator Pilot’ Program will offer grants of $1 million to $5 million to eligible organizations to provide counseling, networking and to serve as an informal connection to agency resources to help small businesses recover from the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the original deadline to apply for these grants was July 12 — which has now been extended to July 23. The agency anticipates making awards under the program in September.
“This program is designed to empower a hyperlocal approach through a national network of community navigators who are on the ground truly connecting, empathizing, and tailoring solutions for our small businesses during critical recovery,” said SBA Associate Administrator for the Office for Entrepreneurial Development Mark Madrid in a press release announcing the deadline extension. “This bold effort underscores our agency’s commitment to advance equity and bolster an ecosystem in which small businesses continue to apply for the diverse suite of SBA resources, services, and/or programs throughout various stages of business recovery, growth, scale, and/or maturity.”
The ultimate goal of the grant program is to help revitalize small businesses through a “hub-and-spoke” model in which a hub will be at the center of a series of spoke organizations that use community advocates to work with small businesses to recover from COVID-19 and better connect with minority, veteran and women-owned small businesses.
“Inclusion and access continue to be among the most important priorities for aiding small business through recovery. Our underrepresented, women and Native American businesses need our support now to grow and strengthen our economy, said SBA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership Natalie Madeira Cofield in a press release.
The program will run for two years, starting on September 1, 2021, and lasting until August 31, 2023. Eligible organizations include state and local governments, economic development organizations, small business development centers, nonprofit colleges and universities and Community Development Financial Institutions, among others.
Interested organizations can go here to learn more about the program and how to apply.
The new grant program was approved by Congress earlier in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and comes after criticism that the initial wave of COVID-relief funding for small businesses, provided by the Paycheck Protection Program and others in 2020, went to well-connected businesses better able to access financial services and not those hardest hit by the pandemic.
In 2021, the Biden Administration has made policy changes and tweaks to various COVID-relief programs, including special set-asides in the PPP for smaller, community-oriented lenders, as well as changes to allow the smallest businesses to get larger loans under the program.
The Restaurant Revitalization Fund included a 21-day priority window for grants to socially and economically disadvantaged restaurants, although SBA suffered a series of court rulings that ended that window, leaving thousands of small businesses without restaurant grants.