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Albany hoping to boost small businesses with latest ARPA awards

Mayor Kathy Sheehan at the STEAM Garden (279 Central Avenue) August 2, 2023
Dave Lucas
Mayor Kathy Sheehan at the STEAM Garden (279 Central Avenue) August 2, 2023

The second round of Albany's American Rescue Plan Act-funded Small Business Vitality Assistance program is now open.

Funded through the city’s $80.7 million ARPA award, Mayor Kathy Sheehan says Round 1 saw $200,000 in support distributed to 26 Albany entrepreneurs.

“This funding provided COVID recovery assistance like back rent, and utilities, or outstanding payments to vendors, provided technical assistance to allow for business expansion, website creation, accounting services, training and tuition assistance, where six entrepreneurs were able to attend the Community Loan Fund’s nine-week business planning course, and industry specific certification training. So 77% of those receiving funding to date are minority and women owned businesses. And this is the success that the BIDS are looking to build upon with the second round of these grants that are going to be going out into the community,” said Sheehan.

Downtown Albany BID Executive Director Georgette Steffens says the program has been expanded under Round 2:

"We had a successful first round, but we did hear from many of the applicants that they needed other items that could be funded, that would be eligible, that weren't eligible in the first round," Steffens said. "And so the committee sat down. And we really looked at that. And so while we did hear from a few people that they didn't know the first round had been out there. So we're going to keep the first three, right, so COVID, debt relief, technical assistance, and training, industry specific certification programs, you know, entrepreneur training programs, that will still be eligible in the second round. But we are adding three new categories. And they are to assist with new and enhance marketing initiatives.”

The new categories include help with equipment, sales, supplies and façade improvements such as signage or lighting.

"So maybe a website, maybe we have someone who wants to wrap their van with their logo, new signage in their windows or business cards, maybe they couldn't even afford to have business cards as a way to help market their business," said Steffens.

Steffens says grants of $2,000-$15,000 will be awarded, with individual funding based on the application that meets the basic eligibility requirements, demonstrated need, impact to business growth, business fluency, capacity, and prior support.

“You can go to our website, it is businessvitalityalbany.org and complete an intake form," Steffens said. "And then you need to complete the intake form by September 8, in order to be eligible for this round of funding. And so once you do that, you will be connected with the Small Business Development Center’s counselor. One of the counselors will reach out to you, that has been really what has made this program successful. We had over 100 individuals that received counseling through the Small Business Development Center. And part of why we did a round 1 and round 2 is because we knew that not every business was going to be ready to have a grant in the first round, they might need some technical assistance, maybe they need to get their LLC, maybe they need to, you know, work on getting their business up and running. And so then they could come in for the second round and apply for some of the money.”

To be eligible for the Small Business Vitality Assistance program, the business must be for-profit, located in the city, be registered with the state, and have no more than 20 full-time or full-time equivalent employees.

Small Business Resource Open Houses are being held at the STEAM Garden (279 Central Avenue) on Tuesday, August 15 at 9:00 AM and Noon, and on Thursday, August 17 at 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM. Registration is now open for the Small Business Open Houses, and can be done here.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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