Small businesses in CT receive bridge grants from State until federal aid arrives

Hartford

Conn. (WTNH) — More than 60,000 small businesses struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Connecticut applied for and received money from the government to stay afloat since the pandemic began.

Small business grant dollars that were funneled through the state just hit bank accounts this week.
And more is coming.

So far, $6.8-billion dollars in federal money through round one of the paycheck protection program is helping small businesses. The door just opened on round two, another $3-billion, and it can’t come soon enough.

Jody Morneault, the owner of Morneault’s Stackpole Moore & Tryon in Hartford, became emotional on a virtual round table with state leaders and business officials Tuesday, “Our state capitol is crumbling right now and it’s devastating!”

Through tears, Morneault describes her situation as desperate: “We are literally living on savings and credit cards and I don’t want to close my store. The money meant so much to me.”

That money is the aid she just received from the federal CARES Act in the form of a Connecticut Recovery Grant.

Up to $30,000 dollars. No application required. The Department of Economic and Community Development officials say it’s based on tax filings and losses.

Two thousand of the state’s hardest-hit businesses got money. Sixty percent are in the hospitality industry including restaurants and hotels, 20 percent in the retail industry, and the remainder are service providers like salons, spas, and the entertainment industry.

The “Oyster Club” in New London County is tanking. Revenues are down 60%.

Dan Meiser, the owner of the Oyster Club says the state grant programs are “a really critical piece to the overall lifeline to making it until the spring.”

He also owns “Grass and Bones.” Its take-out option is thriving. “For us, the big word of 2020: pivot,” added Meiser.

Union League Cafe in New Haven pivoted, too.

Six hundred events were cancelled and half the staff were laid off due to the pandemic. Owners changed dining hours and opened a patio.

Industry leaders say the COVID-19 vaccine is a game-changer.

Executive Director of the Connecticut Restaurant Assocation Scott Dolch says, “the quicker we can get everyone vaccinated the quicker we can get our state back open espeically this sector of our economy.”

In total, $35-million in CT Business Recovery Grants have been awarded, $50-million in CT Cares small business grants, and in two rounds of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) $9.8-Billion is available. The PPP is not taxable.

WEB EXTRA: Deadline for PPP round 2

It is unclear whether businesses will be on the hook for tax liability on the state grant money. DECD officials from the state are looking at state tax laws to determine the answer.

In Tolland at Headliners Salon, owner Kim Robinson says this year in a pandemic “has been a master’s degree in Business 101.”

After untangling safety regulations, she’s working cutting and styling hair. At the same time, she is taking on debt after purchasing protective gear and touchless equipment.

“Enormous amounts of PPE that we never expected to wear. We’re hairdressers running around in shields and masks.”

U.S. Small Business Administration officials say ‘don’t wait.’ Talk to your bank now about the PPP loans.

SBA District Director in Connecticut Catherine Marx says, “while you are waiting, get finances in order.”

Governor Lamont is focused on making the state grant money a bridge to the new federal dollars coming from Washington D.C., adding, “this 60 to 90 period is key so your business can stay in business.”

The deadline to apply for the second round of PPP is March 31. For more information on SBA’s assistance to small businesses, visit sba.gov/ppp or treasury.gov/cares or call 860-50-2333.

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