LITTLE ROCK (KATV) — The CARES Act Steering Committee approved an additional $24.5 million requested for the Arkansas Ready for Business grant program, bringing the total to $124.5 million.
Initially, the Arkansas Legislative Council approved to fund the grant with $147.7 million - the amount requested by businesses. Stipulations were placed as part of that approval, requiring 75 percent of the grant funding be awarded to businesses with 50 or fewer employees and 15 percent toward minority, women, or disabled veteran owned businesses.
Secretary of Commerce, Mike Preston, who is also a member of the committee shared an update on the grant program at Wednesday's virtual meeting.
Out of the 12,233 applicants, Preston said, 250,000 employees were represented – roughly 25 percent of Arkansas’ workforce.
Preston explained that 94 percent of requests came from business with 50 of fewer employers, but due to the stipulations placed by ALC Preston’s team had to rework the funding formula. This group was only eligible for 62% of the grant funds. Preston added, the amount awarded to businesses with more than 50 employees had to be reduced so that the percentage awarded to smaller companies would increase to the required level.
Previously, the funding amount was $1,000 per employee, with a maximum grant amount of up to $100,000. Now the grant amount will be $1,000 per employee, with a maximum grant amount of $50,000.
Businesses with 50 or fewer employees will not be affected, however, 667 companies out of 12,000 were affected by the his change.
While $147.7 million was the total requested by businesses, and the total approved by ALC, Preston said they can meet the stipulations placed with a total of $124.5 million.
The new formula now proposes fully funding businesses with 50 or fewer employees, funding around 70 percent of businesses with 50-100 employees and funding 50 percent of businesses with 100 or more employees.
To track spending, coupled with changes, Preston said they want to disburse the grant to businesses in two transactions.
During the first round, they would direct-deposit half of the grant money to businesses then require they turn in receipts along with a plan for how they plan to spend the second half of the money. Preston said whether a business requests the second half, they will still be required to produce receipts for proof of purchases. Any funds not spent by a business will have to be returned by the spending deadline of this grant - December 31st.
Preston is hopeful businesses in Arkansas will start to see funds hit their accounts as early as next week, pending any potential changes that could be made by ALC at Friday's meeting.
Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, motioned to recommend an additional $24.5 million for the grant – that’s in addition to the $100 million the committee had already recommended to ALC – and it passed unanimously.
The CARES Act Steering Committee meets again next Wednesday, while ALC will meet this Friday.