301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

10.24.20 – El Dorado News

Main Street El Dorado recently announced two grant programs that are available to support small businesses that are facing financial hardships amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Beth Brumley, executive director of MSE, said several state agencies have joined together to offer grants to businesses with 250 or fewer full-time employees and the national Main Street program has also launched round two of a grant program that was made available earlier this year to businesses within downtown commercial and historic districts.

Main Street America and The Hartford Financial Services Group, a Connecticut-based investment and insurance company, teamed up last summer to form The HartBeat of Main Street Grant Program, which supports brick-and-mortar businesses by helping them adapt to the public health crisis and guiding them through the reopening process.

During the first wave of COVID-19, many local businesses severely curtailed operations or shut down, either temporarily or permanently.

Downtown El Dorado was no exception.

LaBella, a beloved gourmet gift shop and delicatessen, permanently closed its doors in July after more than three decades.

Two other longtime, downtown businesses — The Travel Emporium and Mr. Tuxedo — relocated to spots outside the city’s Central Business District.

Brumley said business for The Travel Emporium and Mr. Tuxedo essentially came to a standstill because travel and activities that call for formal wear, respectively, slowed considerably because of COVID-19.

Through it all, MSE and the Downtown Business Association have pulled together to keep downtown merchants apprised of economic relief programs — grants and loans — that are available to them, to provide assistance with the application process and to come up with offers and ideas to help boost customer traffic.

Last week, MSE shared information about the Business Interruption Grant Program for the Arkansas Service and Hospitality Industries.

The program resulted from a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Arkansas Department of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

While businesses throughout Arkansas have been affected by the public health crisis, state officials declared that “businesses in the personal care, tourism, travel, recreation and hospitality industries require additional economic assistance to maintain their economic viability and their vital support for the overall Arkansas economy.”

The AEDC linked up with the other agencies to dispense funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act toward the Business Interruption Grant Program.

The CARES Act is a $2.2 trillion federal stimulus bill that was signed into law in March to help prop up the U.S. economy that had been crippled by COVID-19.

A portion of the funding was directed toward businesses and the Interruption grant will provide first-time or supplemental financial assistance for eligible business expenses that have been incurred between March 1 and Sept. 30 as a direct result of COVID-19 mitigation.

The money may also be used for routine business expenses that were incurred during the same time period due to government-mandated business closures or restrictions because of COVID-19.

The grant is intended for businesses with 250 or fewer full-time employees.

Brumley said MSE is sorting through the terms and conditions of the grant requirements.

“We’re trying to get some clarification ourselves. It sounds like Main Street itself may be able to apply,” she said.

Candidates must apply for the grant online between Nov. 16 and 25. Grant awards will not exceed $250,000. A maximum of $50 million has been allocated for the grant program.

For more information or to apply, visit www.arkansasready.com.

The HartBeat grant is a competitive grant that is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis for the second phase of business re-openings in commercial districts.

The grant program is also part of a continuing effort by Main Street America to help revitalize and strengthen older and historic downtown commercial districts.

Grants of $5,000 to $15,000 will be awarded on a competitive and first-come, first-served basis. A minimum of 50 percent of grants will benefit diverse-owned businesses, which are defined by the Small Business Administration as minority, woman, veteran, disabled and/or LGBTQ-owned.

To apply for the HartBeat grant, visit www.mainstreet.org.

Also, call the Main Street El Dorado office at 870-862-4747 for more information about either grant.