New grants available for small businesses in Amherst

  • A view of Main Street in downtown Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

AMHERST — One-time grants up to $10,000 apiece are available to small Amherst businesses that are owned by income-eligible individuals and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With $140,000 in recent federal CARES Act funding, town officials and business leaders are working with Valley Community Development, the program administrator, for the application and selection process for this money.

Senior Planner Nathaniel Malloy said the program is expected to help between 12 and 15 businesses, though the number could change depending on the size of the grants. In addition to showing a financial impact from COVID-19, a business must not have its funding duplicated by another federal source of funding, such as the Payroll Protection Program.

Various criteria must be met. In addition to making less than 80% of area median income based on family size, applicants also must be a “micro-enterprise” business with five or fewer employees, including the owner, and have been operating before Jan. 1, 2019. The application is online, with a portal through the town website at amherstma.gov.

Amherst Business Improvement District Executive Director Gabrielle Gould said she is helping three businesses with applying to the program.

“My true hope is that we can get many of our businesses this much needed extra relief as winter looms,” Gould said.

Valley Community Development is also acting as program administrator for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission for federal CARES Act money for small businesses in several other communities, including Easthampton, Hadley, Hatfield, Granby, South Hadley, Southampton and Westhampton. Similar grants were made available to businesses in Northampton and Holyoke last spring.

In April, the Amherst BID and the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce created the Relief and Resiliency Microgrant Program, supported by the Downtown Amherst Foundation and donations from residents. That assisted 63 local businesses with $250,000 in financial support, along with providing personal protective equipment and supplies and the creation of the #IAMherst campaign.

Gould said the organizations will also work with the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corp., a new grant program Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week.

Chamber Executive Director Claudia Pazmany said “every ounce of support” is needed for businesses, which will be affected by a possible winter spike in COVID, not being able to serve diners outdoors and any future shutdowns.

Grants can be used to pay for or reimburse expenses related to business operating costs such as rent, utilities and staffing, marketing and sales services including software purchases or updates, and acquisition of safety equipment and cleaning supplies. For more information, send email to grants@valleycdc.com.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.