Downtown Masks

A masked shopper walks past Jam on Jan. 5 in downtown Bozeman.

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Hundreds of thousands of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds will be available to Bozeman small businesses starting Wednesday.

The city allocated $850,000 of the money they received from the state through the CARES Act to the Coronavirus Small Business Local Relief Fund, said Brit Fontenot, the city’s director of economic development. They used a contract with local firm Prospera Business Network to set up an application and screening process, which opens for the first round Wednesday morning.

The grant program is targeted to help “smallest of small” businesses pay for known costs, Fontenot said.

“This is about paying your rent, this is about paying your utilities, this is about keeping your doors open until hopefully sometime this summer and fall we see the vaccine kicking in...and hopefully the regulatory environment allows for a safe return to business and restaurants and schools,” Fontenot said.

There are three different categories — two grant programs and one loan program.

One grant program for up to $5,000 is for single-owner businesses with no employees, while the other is for small business owners with no more than 20 employees for up to $10,000.

According to a fact sheet about the program, both grant programs are intended to help businesses who have been impacted by COVID-19 health restrictions.

The loan program has less strict requirements, said Paul Reichert, Prospera’s executive director.

“The microloan program is a little more flexible or open,” Reichert said.

“As long as they’re physically operating in the city limits they can apply for a microloan with the same kind of caveats. But ... they don’t have to have leased space, they don’t have to meet some of those other requirements of the grant.”

Prospera, who has conducted business loan programs with the city before, will administer multiple rounds of the COVID-19 relief program, Reichert said. They anticipate doing three rounds of allocations, and businesses who are not approved in the first rounds will be able to reapply.

Eligible businesses must be within city limits, not in bankruptcy, in good-standing with the city and have no more than 20 employees. Businesses must also be in compliance with federal, state and local COVID-19 health directives and orders, according to a fact sheet about the program. More information can be found on Prospera’s website, prosperamt.org.

Fontenot noted there are other pandemic relief options for businesses from the state and federal governments.

“We hope this local effort backfills what other programs are not able to accomplish,” Fontenot said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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