Philly small business grants up to $10K available before COVID-19 relief money runs out

There’s $10.5 million in federal grants available for minority-owned small businesses across Pennsylvania — but time is running out to apply.

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Small businesses on Baltimore Avenue

Small businesses line Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia. (The Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia)

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Hundreds of small business owners in Philadelphia neighborhoods could snag a slice of grant money set aside by a federal COVID-19 relief program with some state support that’s still accepting applications until Friday.

Minority-owned businesses operating in lower income communities already struggling with higher than average crime rates will be prioritized to get grants between $2,500 and $10,000 each.

It’s been difficult since the COVID-19 pandemic because business owners have “felt very isolated” and are often skeptical of government aid programs, said Lee Nentwig, commercial corridor manager for the New Kensington Community Development Corporation.

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There’s $10.5 million in the budget of the Historically Disadvantaged Business Assistance grant program which is a partnership of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the statewide Community Development Financial Institution network.

Unlike some programs, there’s flexibility in how the grant money can be spent.

“It could be something simple like needing to patch a leak that’s done water damage to their business that they don’t have the funds to address for a number of years,” said Nentwig. “It could be purchasing new equipment. Like if it’s a barber shop looking to purchase new chairs, or a bodega that wants to serve hot food or needs new refrigerators.”

There are some restrictions about the type of eligible businesses, such as employing fewer than 25 workers and generating less than $1 million in annual revenue. But all must also prove that the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic shutdown affected their companies.

Tacony Community Development Corporation coordinator Amarynth Ruch works with about 120 businesses who could apply. But it’s more likely only about a dozen would qualify.

“A lot of our businesses are still struggling,” Ruch said. “Many of them have recovered. Unfortunately for a lot of them they already had to close because of the impacts from the pandemic.”

It’s important that there’s a mix of loans and grant money available — especially since small business owners are often afraid to take out loans, she said.

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But there’s still plenty of businesses in her community who won’t qualify because they were not in operation since March 2020.

“We have a lot of new businesses that don’t qualify for grants like these but are still sort of impacted by the long-term effects of COVID-19,” she said.

Interested small businesses must apply by Feb. 23 to be considered.

Any small businesses that don’t qualify for this program can still get grant money from other sources like The Merchant’s Fund or the city of Philadelphia’s storefront improvement program, Ruch said.

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