WINCHESTER — With the application process for the Rebuild VA grant program now open, the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted a virtual discussion last week to sort through questions from people in the Shenandoah Valley.

The 250-plus attendees heard from Joni Marshall with the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.

“We’re hoping to have about 7,000 grants at about $10,000 apiece,” Marshall said. “It will cover expenses related to COVID, should you have to remodel, put in plexiglasss, [buy] PPE [personal protective equipment], and those type of expenses.”

The grants are supported with federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money.

The grant also can be used to cover payroll support, including sick, medical or family leave, and costs related to the condition of group health care benefits during those periods of leave; employee salaries; mortgage, rent and utility payments; and principal and interest payments for any business loans from national or state-chartered banking or savings and loan institutions or credit unions that were incurred before or during the coronavirus emergency.

Those awarded a grant cannot use it to pay dividends and bonuses; disburse the money to owners except when directly related to performance of services; repay stockholder or principal loans; expand facilities or acquire fixed assets not directly related to COVID-19 response; repair or replace physical damage; refinance debt; pre-pay or pay off loans; or for relocation expenses.

“Currently, the grant is only covering those businesses affected by (Governor Ralph Northam’s) Executive Order 53,” Marshall said. She noted it mostly includes the service industry.

The order placed temporary restrictions on certain businesses in response to the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to other measures.

“We’re trying to get to the people who were first and foremost affected,” Courtney Mustin, business service manager with the SBDC, added.

Start-up companies are eligible as long as they were in operation before March and can prove their income stream was impacted.

Marshall said documentation during the application process includes any paperwork on expenses the applicant is seeking reimbursement for, information on business formation as well as IRS determination letters, payroll verification and verification on the number of the employees. She said businesses should only count full-time employees. She also noted the owner of the business is the person who should be making the application, and identification is required.

Funds are available until they run out or until Dec. 31.

Most of the questions on the call focused on eligibility requirements.

The requirements show businesses must be organized as either a corporation, pass-through entity or other legal entity that is organized separately from the owner; a 501©(3) or 501©(19) veterans organization; a sole proprietorship; or an independent contractor.

The business or organization must also fall within one of the following categories: restaurant and beverage services; non-essential brick and mortar retail; fitness and exercise facilities; personal care and personal grooming services; entertainment and public amusement; or private campgrounds and overnight summer camps.

The applicant must have a principal place of business in Virginia; have 25 or fewer employees; have a gross revenue of less than $1.5 million in the last fiscal year; have been operating prior to March 12; and be in good standing with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

The following are ineligible: Businesses that are not individually owned and operated; applicants that have already received CARES Act funding; applicants that are delinquent on state income taxes and do not have a payment plan in place; lobbyists; or owners or principals of the business with 20% or more ownership interest that are more than 60 days delinquent on child support obligations.

Businesses that received grants or loans from localities that were not federal funds are still eligible, but Marshall encouraged business owners to check with those localities to ensure the money was not from a federal program.

Marshall said applicants should expect to receive payment within a month, if approved.

As far as the application process is concerned, Marshall said it’s important to have everything ready beforehand. She said people can view a copy of the paper application on the governor’s website to see what they will need before filling out an online application.

“This is a once-and-done application. There is not a save-and-close option. You must finish it in one sitting,” Marshall said, noting it will time out after 15 minutes of inactivity. She also said to not hit the back button because it will kick you out and you can’t try again until the next business day.

Those who are unable to apply online can mail in a paper copy. Marshall said special consideration is being given to those applying with a paper copy and money has been set aside to ensure they have an equal opportunity to receive funds.

Those with questions can contact Marshall at 804-307-6857 or by email at joni.Marshall@sbsd.virginia.gov.

For information, visit www.governor.virginia.gov/rebuildva/.

— Contact Matt Welch

at mwelch@winchesterstar.com

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