BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — The man who oversees Louisiana’s money says plenty of dollars remain for small businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Treasurer John Schroder’s office launched the Main Street Recovery Program on July 28, with approval from the Louisiana Legislature. The program puts $275 million from the federal CARES Act toward one-time grants — but $210 million remains unspent, according to the treasurer.
“I didn’t think it would be this hard to give away money,” he said Tuesday.
Schroder blames the low turnout on skepticism, particularly among those who have sought government aid in the past and didn’t get it.
“Small business isn’t used to having handouts,” he said. “This isn’t a handout. This is your money. You’ve been paying your taxes for years.”
Al Bye, who co-owns Theater Antiques in Denham Springs, admits he was skeptical as well — especially after receiving little government help during the August 2016 floods. But as the costs of a virus-induced stay-at-home order piled up, he took a chance.
“We were scratching and scraping everything we could, because we anticipated getting nothing,” he said. “The more we read up on it, the more we said, let’s just give it a shot.”
This time was different. Bye applied on the first day of eligibility, then got a grant within 30 days.
“It was a very pleasant surprise what this program has done for us,” Bye said.
Eligible businesses must be owned by a Louisiana resident, have fewer than 50 workers and a physical location open to the public. Applicants must have filed tax returns in 2018, 2019 or plan to file in 2020.
A single business can receive up to $15,000 in grant money, so long as it incurred the same amount in virus-related expenses. (The average award is $9,570, according to LouisianaMainStreet.com.)
Nearly $15 million has gone toward businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans so far. The state treasury intends to award $40 million to these groups by Sep. 25.
The deadline to apply is Nov. 4.