Small Business Relief Fund Program
Purpose: The Small Business Relief Fund (SBRF) is intended to provide short term relief to businesses in Androscoggin County, in an effort to stabilize the local economy and position our region for economic resilience. These funds are aimed to help keep businesses viable during this short term fluctuation in revenue, compounded by their unforeseen expenses stemming from the lockdown orders associated with the October 25th tragedy.
History and Context: During the lockdown October 25-27th, the LA Metro Chamber and its peers in municipal and state economic development understood from area businesses that lost revenue from unexpected closures, unforeseen expenses related to evacuations and the disposal of perishable goods was impactful. In the weeks that followed, it became clear that the economic impact to businesses extended beyond the closures and that the return of customers (and the revenue they generate) was slow to rebound.
The SBRF was started by the LA Metro Chamber prior to November 1, 2023, with approximately $10,000 donated by mid-November. A large donation made the week of November 28th acted as a catalyst for this program, with nearly $575,000 raised by December 15, 2023. A design team was convened to advise on how these funds would be used, with a primary goal of ensuring a quick turnaround for relief, and a process that is simple for business owners.
Use: The SBRF will continue to accept donations, but as of December 15, 2023, the funds raised to date will be used in the below ways, with Phase 1 and Phase 2 accepting applications concurrently.
Phase 1 Grants – Immediate and low barrier relief. A total of $150,000 will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis – until the $150,000 is fully granted, or January 19, 2024, whichever comes first. To receive these funds, the first 150 submissions who are eligible and complete the Phase 1 Application fully will be awarded $1,000. If on January 19, 2024 these funds are not fully exhausted, the remaining funds will be awarded through Phase 2 Grants.
Phase 2 Grants – Short term relief with additional documentation. A total of $350,000 will be awarded through Phase 2. All eligible Phase 1 applications will be contacted and encouraged to submit additional information for consideration for Phase 2 Funding.
Regional Marketing and Contingency – Collaborative Marketing. Marketing Campaigns to encourage residents and visitors to patronize area businesses will be led by the Chamber, in collaboration with media partners and municipalities. The #LocalLAFlavor contest will begin immediately, while area business owners will be invited to advise on January-May campaigns. Currently, $75,000 is earmarked for initial marketing as well as emergent needs (marketing and beyond). Marketing funds from the SBRF will be used as a last resort if additional marketing funds can be identified. This will allow a small portion of funds to be reserved for use during 2024 as emergent needs require.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ignore this one
Where can I learn more?
I don’t have online access, where can I get the application and more information?
You can pick up and drop off applications at the LA Metro Chamber, 415 Lisbon Street, Lewiston ME. You may also get a printed application from the economic development staff at the Poland, Lisbon, Auburn, and Lewiston town offices.
You can also get more information by calling our support line, 866-614-3149; 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday through January 20, 2024 – except holidays.
How can I get one on one support with my application?
You can call the support line at 866-614-3149. If you would like to sit with someone in person and your business is in Auburn, Lewiston, or Lisbon, you can make an appointment with their economic development staff.
What are the hours of support line?
866-614-3149; 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday through January 20, 2024 – except holidays.
I still have questions - how do I contact someone at the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce?
What is the timeline?
December 20, 2023: Applications open, public announcement made
December 20, 2023-January 19, 2024: Phase 1 and 2 applications are received, processed, and assessed for eligibility. Eligible Phase 1 applications will be notified and encouraged to apply for Phase 2, and additional documentation will be requested. All applicants may be requested to provide additional information.
January 19, 2024, 11:59 PM: All applications are closed.
January 25, 2024: All Phase 1 awards complete and notified. All Phase 2 Applicants are notified of their status (awarded, pending, or not awarded).
February 5, 2024: All Phase 2 Grants awarded, public announcement of awards and Small Business Relief Fund Balance.
Who is eligible?
All for profit, non profit, and sole proprietorships with headquarters in Androscoggin County who experienced a financial loss related to October 25th tragedy are eligible. Membership to the LA Metro Chamber has no bearing on eligibility or award.
How will my application be scored?
How will my application be scored? Phase 1 Grant applications will be deemed eligible or ineligible, based on the eligibility criteria. Applications that are complete (including proof of incorporation) will receive Phase 1 Grant funding in accordance with the grant overview, until Phase 1 funds are exhausted. Phase 2 will be scored using a weighted scoring system.
Location – 5 points. Headquarters in Androscoggin County will determine eligibility, with higher scores given to businesses in Lewiston, Auburn, and Lisbon.
Industry – 15 points. All industries are eligible, with higher scores given to those in hospitality, retail, and entertainment.
Financial Impact – 25 points. Eligible applicants will demonstrate a negative financial impact. Higher scores will be given to greater loss, as demonstrated by the documentation provided.
Future viability – 20 points. Applicants will demonstrate the ability to be viable for a minimum of 2 years. Higher scores will be awarded to applicants who can demonstrate a plan or strategy for viability for the long term.
Number of employees – 10 points. Any number of employees are eligible. Higher scores will be awarded to applicants with 10 or fewer employees.
Impact on the local economy – 20 points. Higher scores will be awarded to applicants who can demonstrate their connection to, impact on, and role in the local economy.
Use of Funds – 5 points. Working capital, wages, site improvements, and marketing are eligible. Higher scores will be awarded to uses that will increase applicant’s viability and impact on the local economy.
Where does this money come from?
The money is a combination of private donations and corporate donations (notably from Poland Spring/Blue Triton, and Central Maine Power). There are no tax dollars (local, state or federal) being used. In-kind support to provide technical assistance and outreach is being provided by Maine DECD, City of Auburn, City of Lewiston, and the Town of Lisbon. Significant in-kind support is being provided by the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce.
When will I know?
Phase 1 Applicants will know quickly, with some delays due to the holidays (through January 4th, 2024). Phase 2 Applicants will know their award status no later than February 5, 2024.
Who decided how it would get used?
A group of economic development professionals representing Maine DECD, Auburn, Lewiston, and Lisbon were joined by small business owners from Auburn, Lewiston, and Lisbon. Additionally, Leadership from Auburn Savings Bank, the LA Metro Chamber Board of Directors and staff contributed to the design of this grant program.