A coalition of local officials, business leaders and lenders are briefly opening a center for small business owners to get help in person in Baton Rouge to apply for a state grant program.
Working together on the effort are IMPACT North Baton Rouge, formerly known as the Baton Rouge North Economic Development District, along with Southern University, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Baton Rouge city-parish led by Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Hancock Whitney Bank and Citizens Bank and Trust.
Tens of thousands of interested applicants signed up for email alerts for the Louisiana Main Street Recovery grant program, which provides eligible small businesses up to $15,000 each for expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pop-up center will only be open this week for two days: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. The center is at Southern University inside the Valdry Center for Philanthropy at 598 Harding Blvd.
There is only $275 million allocated for the grant program for the entire state and it is first come, first served. For the first 21 days of the program, only businesses that did not benefit from the federal Paycheck Protection Program can apply. Afterwards, the program is open to all small businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
The economic development district in North Baton Rouge has one of the highest concentrations of minority-owned businesses in the state.
“We felt compelled to do something," said Jerry W. Jones Jr., leader of IMPACT North Baton Rouge. "We won't just stop here either, after these two days in person we will follow-up doing Zoom calls to assist businesses once a week until those funds run out."
Interested business owners must register for an appointment, wear a mask and commit to social distancing indoors. Each appointment is scheduled for an hour and can be made by calling (225) 921-3554 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for confirmation.
No more than 30 business owners may be inside each hour in an effort to reduce the likelihood of a crowd. But over the two-day stretch, the group may meet hundreds of individuals.
"Bring everything with you, as if you're doing your taxes," Jones said.
Some documentation required includes federal income tax returns, itemized expenses, driver's license, federal taxpayer identification number for the company, proof of employee payroll among other documents.
Neither credit card information nor bank account information is required and won't be requested as part of the program.
The goal is to avoid the plethora of scammers who may prey on desperate business owners and charge a 'finders fee' for a grant application process that totally free, he said.
About $40 million in grants are earmarked for businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans during the first 60 days of the program.
Applications can be submitted at www.louisianamainstreet.com.
Small business owners must have receipts for all the expenses they are seeking reimbursement for through the program. Rent, insurance, utilities, payroll, inventory replacement, teleworking equipment, sanitizers, cleaning supplies and equipment needed to set up social distancing are all eligible expenses. About the only thing that can’t be claimed is lost revenue.
The Main Street Recovery grant program, which allows small businesses to get reimbursements of up to $15,000 for expenses they incurred as a r…