Treasurer: Louisiana business grant program to begin in July

    Some small businesses harmed by the coronavirus pandemic should start seeing grants from a $300 million federally financed program as soon as next month, Louisiana’s state treasurer said today.

    The money is part of $1.8 billion in direct congressional relief that Louisiana received to respond to COVID-19. Most of the money is being used to fill state budget shortfalls amid the pandemic, but lawmakers set aside $300 million for the small business grants.

    Republican state Treasurer John Schroder estimates that more than 450,000 Louisiana businesses would qualify for the money, raising concerns it will run out quickly.

    “We could knock it out in 21 days. We really have no idea,” Schroder told the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. “It’s not going to go far.”

    The grants are aimed at helping businesses that had to stop operating or otherwise incurred costs because of the virus outbreak. Businesses that qualify may receive up to $15,000 each.

    Under the rules enacted by lawmakers, grants for the first 21 days will be available only to businesses that didn’t receive other federal aid through the Paycheck Protection Program or through a U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan, and that didn’t receive insurance payments for interruptions to their business.

    Schroder is seeking proposals from contractors interested in running the program and says he hopes to have a consultant selected by July 4. He says his office is modeling Louisiana’s program after similar business assistance being distributed in Mississippi and Idaho.

    The legislative auditor’s office will review the program to look for any fraudulent activity. But Schroder says he doesn’t want bureaucratic hurdles to slow delivery of assistance to businesses.

    To be eligible, businesses have to be located in Louisiana. They could not have employed more than 50 full-time workers as of March 1, before Louisiana saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19. And they can’t be a subsidiary of or owned by a larger company with more than 50 full-time employees. Read the full story.