In an effort to support Skowhegan businesses during the pandemic, town officials announced Wednesday that grant funding for COVID-19 relief and recovery was available.

The Hight Family of Dealerships contributed $1,000 to the grant program to help Skowhegan businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. Morning Sentinel file photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

The grants, administered through Main Street Skowhegan’s technical assistance program, started in February with the help of Main Street’s Business Enhancement Committee. The technical assistance program started with $4,000 in funding donated by Skowhegan Savings Bank, Franklin-Somerset Federal Credit Union, Franklin Savings Bank and New Dimensions Federal Credit Union.

“When we kicked it off in February, the idea was to have funds available for our local businesses who need immediate assistance to implement a new project or some sort of growth initiative,” said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan. “It’s also available to new entrepreneurs who would like to start a business in Skowhegan.”

Though those initiatives are still available under the expanded technical assistance program, Cannon said new funding has been specifically donated for COVID-19 relief.

The program received a $1,000 donation from the Hight Family of Dealerships and $5,000 from the Skowhegan Economic Development Corp., increasing the available funding to $10,000.

“The Economic Development Corporation and the Hights stepped up and added some money to the pot that will help us provide immediate assistance to local businesses that are in need of help right now,” Cannon said. “It’s great that we have had some local folks step up and really help out the community.”

To request the funding, businesses need to fill out the online form, which asks for details on how their business has been impacted by the pandemic.

“That way, the committee can make a decision because we presume that we’re going to be getting more applications than we have money available,” Cannon said. “I am also hoping that the announcement of people locally donating to the funding pool will entice others to potentially donate as well.”

“Supporting our community is a top priority for the Hight family,” said Sam Hight, chair of Main Street Skowhegan’s Business Enhancement Committee and a part of Hight Dealerships. “We are proud to donate to the TA grant program to help our fellow businesses in this time of need.”

Businesses that are interested in receiving funding can apply for mini-grants ranging from $500 to $2,000 through an online application to fund need-based COVID-19 relief, technical assistance or equipment.

If businesses are applying for COVID-19 relief, funding can be used for any business expenses, including payroll, utilities, rent, mortgage payments, insurance or similar expenses and products directly used in production of a product for sale. It cannot be used for nonbusiness expenses, such as private debts or physical improvements to the building or space.

For technical assistance, funding can be used for hiring a business planner or consultant, marketing/brand development, website creation, attending mentoring courses, hiring a specialist, buying a piece of machinery, getting legal support or other potential business needs.

The application deadline is May 31 at midnight.

Businesses that have benefited from the technical assistance program include Crooked Face Creamery, which received funding to purchase an upright freezer to meet the increasing demands, and Bigelow Brewing, which received funding to redesign its website. The committee is also reviewing several other grant requests.

“The time for supporting our local businesses is now,” Cannon said. “We are grateful to our funding partners for contributing, and we welcome donations from others who want to join this relief effort.”

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