BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — A state-run program that gives federal CARES Act dollars to small businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic will stop taking applications for now.
State Treasurer John Schroder, a Republican who has administered the $275 million Main Street Recovery Grant Program since summer, hopes to resume the application process soon. But the initiative’s longterm future rides on what state lawmakers decide in a special session that starts Monday.
Legislators are poised to consider whether to use $175 million from the program on other virus-related priorities. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has supported the effort as a way to fill revenue gaps in local government and the state’s unemployment account.
“One of the most important things the Legislature can do in this upcoming session is to fix the Main Street program and to re-allocate the CARES Act funding to where it is needed,” Edwards said in a statement Friday. “It will go a long way towards providing for stability in the local governments most affected by COVID-19 and helping to prevent crippling tax increases on businesses because of the likely insolvency of the trust fund.”
Schroder says there may not be much money left to move — unless lawmakers vote to rescind dollars already promised to virus-affected small businesses.
“They would have to totally shut the program down and tell the people in the middle of applying that they’re not going to get their money,” Schroder said.
The program’s initial application deadline was Nov. 4. The treasurer argues he is pausing the process in case legislators agree to divert its funds.
“The last thing I want to do is tell a bunch of people who applied that they’re eligible but we don’t have the money,” Schroder said.
The program has granted eligible applicants an average of $12,000, according to the treasurer’s office.
Schroder estimates 40,000 small businesses will have applied for a Main Street grant before applications go on hold.
State lawmakers must finish their special session — their second of 2020 — by Oct. 27 at 6 p.m.