SKOWHEGAN — More than 20 businesses will benefit from Main Street Skowhegan’s Technical Assistance/COVID-19 Relief Grant program.

Main Street Skowhegan executive director Kristina Cannon said in a release that funding was doubled with the help of a grant from the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation, bringing the total amount to be granted to businesses $20,000.

The organization announced applications were available last month for the funding aimed at supporting Skowhegan businesses suffering from the economic effects of the pandemic.

Executive Director Kristina Cannon of Main Street Skowhegan, pictured in February 2018 at the organization’s offices, announced grants totaling $20,000 had been awarded to 23 Skowhegan businesses to counter the adverse economic effects of the pandemic. Morning Sentinel file photo

The grant program, administered through Main Street Skowhegan’s technical assistance program, started in February with the help of Main Street’s Business Enhancement Committee. The program started off with a $4,000 donation from Skowhegan Savings Bank, Franklin-Somerset Federal Credit Union, Franklin Savings Bank and New Dimensions Federal Credit Union. The Hight Family Dealerships donated $1,000 and the Skowhegan Economic Development Corp. pitched in $5,000.

This week, the organization announced that the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation awarded a grant to the program, leveraging additional gifts to double the funding to more than $20,000, which has been awarded in varying amounts directly to 23 Skowhegan businesses.

Businesses interested in applying for the funding had to fill out an online application, which asks for details on how the business has been impacted by the pandemic. Businesses were able to apply for grants ranging from $500 to $2,000 to fund need-based COVID-19 relief, technical assistance or equipment.

Businesses that applied sought funding to assist with rent payments and utilities; to cover reopening costs, which included purchasing products and supplies; to buy necessary equipment and to pay for marketing and legal expenses.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of Maine’s economy, so what Main Street Skowhegan is doing to help its local business community is outstanding and incredibly important,” Bill Alfond, president of the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation said in the release. “We couldn’t be prouder to support such terrific leadership.”

Leveraged funding also included a second contribution from the Skowhegan Economic Development Corporation as well as a donation from the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, matching previous financial support.

“We are extremely grateful to the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation for their donation to our grant program,” said Kristina Cannon, Main Street Skowhegan executive director. “Thanks to their gift, we’ve doubled the amount of funding available, giving us more than $20,000 to infuse directly into our small businesses who need it most.”

The Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation was founded in 1987 and makes grants primarily to Maine-based organizations and projects, with a special focus on central Maine.

Cannon said that Main Street Skowhegan received 27 grant requests seeking a total of $49,000. Twenty-two of the 27 requests were submitted in May after the expansion of the funding to provide COVID-19 relief was announced. Fifteen requests totaling $27,100 were submitted for immediate COVID-19 relief. Twelve requests adding up to $22,800 were submitted for technical assistance to spur business growth and increase sales.

“Though there is clearly a need for immediate financial assistance among Skowhegan businesses. It’s encouraging to see a number of business owners looking to grow their business during this economic downturn,” said Cannon. “We are thankful that the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation and our other funding partners believe in Skowhegan and are so willing to invest in our community’s future.”

Some of the Skowhegan businesses to receive funding through the program include the Towne Motel and Kel Mat Cafe on Madison Avenue and T-K Fitness on Court Street.

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

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