What is Westchester County Business FIRST?
Westchester County Business FIRST is a new grant program administered through the Westchester County Office of Economic Development to offer immediate financial relief to small businesses and nonprofits in Westchester County that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why are you offering this program?
As “The Catalyst” for economic growth and vitality, the Westchester County Office of Economic Development is here to support organizations in Westchester County. Businesses and nonprofits bring tremendous value to our County, both economically and culturally. Now, many organizations here are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and the County is here to help.
Why the name FIRST?
We created Westchester County Business FIRST – which stands for Financial Investments for Recovery and a Sustainable Tomorrow – to illustrate the importance of investing in businesses and nonprofits today to help them recover and prepare for a sustainable future.
Is this a state or federal program?
The program is being administered through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
How much total funding is available?
How much funding can a business apply for?
This grant program is competitive. Each application will be reviewed by a diverse panel that will look at a variety of factors. Applicants can apply for up to $49,000 from the grant program but are encouraged to only apply for the amount they specifically need.
How many applicants do you anticipate?
We expect a lot of interest in this program and hope to support between 200 and 500 businesses.
What if all of the money is not used?
In the unlikely event that all the money is not use, we would probably extend the deadline to allow for more businesses and nonprofits to apply.
How is this different from the recently launched IDA grant program?
The Westchester County Industrial Development Agency’s grant program, which was officially launched on Aug. 24, 2020, was designed to provide grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses and nonprofits to acquire PPE (personal protective equipment) or install equipment necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
That program was administered through the State Disaster and Emergency Loan and Grant Program.
The IDA is also offering zero-interest loans through the administration of the State Disaster Emergency Loan Program to small businesses and small not-for-profit corporations in an amount up to $25,000. Deferred and/or uncharged interest will be exempt from New York State taxation but may be subject to federal taxation.
Are people who receive awards from the IDA program also eligible for the Business FIRST program?
Yes, if a business owner received a grant from the IDA, they are eligible to apply for a grant from the Business FIRST program up to a combined amount of $49,000. If a business owner received a loan from the IDA Program, whey are eligible to apply for a grant from the Business FIRST program for the full amount of $49,000.
Who is eligible for Business FIRST grants?
Any business or nonprofit based in Westchester County with 99 or fewer employees that meets the eligibility requirements may apply.
What are the eligibility requirements?
- Primary business location is within Westchester County.
- Must have been open as of Feb. 1, 2020.
- Must be currently open for business and plan to stay open, or be closed temporarily and plan to reopen in 2020.
- Was a financially viable operation prior to March 7, 2020 (date on which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order 202 declaring a disaster emergency).
- Has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 – at least a 25% decline in revenue (March 7, 2020 – present).
- If the organization has received funding from the federal government through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), the use of the Business FIRST grant fund should not duplicate purposes.
- Not delinquent on County taxes, fees or licenses.
- Open to businesses and nonprofits with 99 or fewer employees.
- All types of organization structures are allowed, except non-locally owned franchises.
Are any organizations ineligible?
Units of government, nationally operated franchises managed from outside of Westchester County, gas stations, and real estate holding companies or businesses/nonprofits that generate revenue from passive real estate are not eligible. Certain adult businesses are also not eligible, including strip clubs and adult novelty stores.
Are franchises eligible?
Yes, provided they are locally owned and operated.
Are sole proprietors or home-based businesses?
Are bars eligible?
Yes, bars, restaurants and clubs are eligible.
Will the County prioritize grant applications?
Yes, preference will be given to Minority, Women or Veteran-owned businesses.
Can new businesses apply?
Yes, however the organization must have been open for business in Westchester County as of Feb. 1, 2020. If it is a new organization, the grant cannot be used as start-up funds.
If a business is closed at this time can it apply?
This grant program is designed to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. If the business plans to re-open in 2020, it may apply. If it is permanently closed, it is not eligible.
What is the deadline to submit an application?
All applications must be submitted by midnight on Sept. 30, 2020.
Is this a first-come, first-served grant program?
No. Applications will be scored competitively based on a number of factors including need, employment, longevity, impact on the Westchester County business community, good business practices and use of the funds.
Does this grant need to be repaid?
No, this is a government grant and not a loan, so there is no repayment.
Are grant recipients required to pay taxes on this grant?
Generally, a government grant to a business is not excluded from the recipient’s gross income under the Internal Revenue Code and therefore is taxable.
How may the funds be used?
Funding may be used to cover employee salaries and benefits, and set up for carryout or delivery options; for rent or mortgage payments, working capital, vendor payments, equipment, software and marketing programs; and other necessary expenses directly related to COVID-19. The funds cannot be used to repay owners of the organization for lost profits or to pay debts that pre-date the COVID-19 pandemic. Funds may be used to pay current debts incurred since the pandemic was declared an emergency in New York State on March 7, 2020.
When will applicants be notified if they have been awarded a grant?
Applicants will be notified as to whether they have been approved or denied for a grant in early November 2020.
If approved for a grant, when will the organization receive the funds?
The grants are expected to be allocated to recipients within two weeks of receipt of an approval letter. This will also depend on how quickly they respond to our notification and sign their grant documents.
Will an awardee have any obligations to the County?
We will notify all recipients once all applications have been reviewed. Those awarded grants will need to sign a grant performance agreement. At the end of the grant period, those businesses and nonprofits awarded grants must submit a final report showing how funds were used. Westchester County reserves the right to take back any grant monies not used for the purposes stated on your application.
How many businesses will be selected to receive a grant?
The County anticipates making several hundred grants up to a total of $10M. The exact number will depend upon the applications and how much funding is dispersed for each grantee. We will strive to award as many grants as we can within the limits of our funding.
Are there other resources if a business is not awarded a grant?
Applicants who are not awarded funding through the grant program can still participate in technical assistance programming, including education and training, promotion and mentorship services. These resources can be found on our site https://westchestercatalyst.com/business-FIRST.
How can businesses and nonprofits submit an application?
Applications may only be completed online at WestchesterCatalyst.com/business-FIRST-programs/grants. No paper applications or required documentation will be accepted. Support is available to assist applicants with the application form, and team members involved with providing that assistance will not be part of the review team. For assistance, call 914-995-2900, and ask for help with your Business FIRST grant application, or email Business-FIRST@westchestergov.com