Update: State Will Take 'Ready for Business' Grant Applications at 8 a.m. Tuesday
05/04/2020 02:12 PM
by Lance Turner
Monday, May 4, 2020 1:55 pm   2 min read

Leaders of the Arkansas Legislative Council on Sunday approved an additional $40 million for the "Arkansas Ready for Business" grant program, a state-administered fund to help small businesses reopen as Arkansas rolls back COVID-19 restrictions.

The program's website is set to go live and take applications from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at his daily press briefing on Monday. He directed businesses to go to this website.

"… I want to thank the Senate Pro Team, as well as the speaker, as well as the Legislative Council, for their approval of this and their agreement on it, and willingness to work together to accomplish something that is very very good and important for our small businesses across Arkansas," the governor said.

Officials at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, which oversee the grant process, indicated they would have more information on its relaunch later today.

Hutchinson last week said that the program launched "prematurely" on Wednesday, and many would-be applicants were locked out of the fund when the amount of requests surpassed the program's original $15 million limit.

The program now contains $55 million. Under the new guidelines, at least 15% of the funds' recipients must be women- and minority-owned businesses as defined by Arkansas statute, and at least 75% of the total funds will go to businesses with 50 employees or less.

More: See details of the new "Arkansas Ready for Business" grant program here.

Businesses can use money from the program to purchase supplies including personal protective equipment, no-contact thermometers, no-contact point-of-sale payment equipment, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer stations.

On Monday, Commerce Secretary Mike Preston said businesses whose applications were submitted last week would not need to reapply this week.

On Friday, the state Department of Commerce submitted a new version of the program to the state's CARES Act Steering Committee, which determines how Arkansas will spend its $1.25 billion share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

The department requested an additional $85 million from the CARES Act allocation, along with new guidelines about what businesses could receive it. The steering committee approved the request, though some legislators advocated for a smaller amount and the right to revisit the program's funding depending on demand.

Legislators debated the issue into the weekend, and on Sunday, co-chairs of the Arkansas Legislative Council, who had ultimate oversight, approved $40 million, to bring the fund's total to $55 million.

The council's co-chairs are Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, and Rep. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, who raised objections to the program's launch last Wednesday.

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