Kauai News

New Grant Program to Help Hawai‘i Businesses

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Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i is partnering with the state to launch the Hawai‘i Business Pivot Grant Program later this week.

Grants of up to $10,000 in expense reimbursements will be available to small companies that were forced to alter their business models due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will help at least 2,500 businesses statewide, as it is funded by $25 million allocated from Hawai‘i’s portion of the CARES Act stimulus package.

While $10,000 is a modest sum in the wake of months of economic downturn, local businesses say the program will make a real difference.

“The grants will be a big help. For COVID, we spent thousands of unbudgeted dollars on cleaning supplies, PPE, as well as lumber, hardware, and plexiglass,” said Keller Laros, of Jacks’ Diving Locker in Kailua-Kona. “Not to mention the labor to construct the (virus) screens and barriers, as well as to research what is considered appropriate and safe by county, state, and federal agencies.”

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To qualify for the grant, businesses and nonprofits must meet the following criteria:

  • Be registered in the state of Hawai‘i and have fewer than 100 employees
  • Operate in a physical commercial space in Hawai‘i, as home-based businesses are not eligible
  • Have suffered economic injury due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Been in business prior to March 20, 2020

Eligible expenses for reimbursement may include the following, as long as they were related to pivoting operations or processes:

  • Web development, design, social media, and e-commerce
  • Consulting services
  • Professional services related to pivoting your business
  • Related equipment and supplies
  • Physical distancing measures (expenses incurred after Oct.1, 2020)

“When covid hit us in march, many businesses had no playbook,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawai‘i. “We hope these grants will not only provide relief to these businesses but allow them to reimagine new approaches to add to resilience to their businesses.”

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Several companies have built or expanded on business elements to enter and/or compete in the digital marketplace, including developing websites, altering sales practices, and expanding shipping operations to sell products nationally and internationally. Social media and consulting services have also been common transitional expenses.

The Chamber and its partners will accept and review applications for the grant program. The review process is expected to take 7 to 10 business days before funding is disbursed.

The online portal opens Thursday, Oct. 22, and will remain open until Nov. 23, as funds remain available. An online marketplace run by the Chamber is operational and seeking more vendors.

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More information is available at www.HawaiiBizPivot.org.

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