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Your 2021 ultimate guide to small business grants

Posted by Kanika Sinha

September 27, 2021    |     4-minute read (747 words)

With many small business owners still struggling as the pandemic stretches on, the federal government and some state governments, along with certain private enterprises, are committed to helping them recover. They are offering relief in the form of grants earmarked for businesses vying with the uncertainty of the delta variant. 

Keep in mind that the list of available grants is continually shifting. As some hit their caps, a new one frequently debuts to take its place. Here’s a guide to help you sort through some key grant programs, available at the time of publication.

Small Business Innovation Research program 

SBIR is a grant program aimed at spurring small businesses to participate in research and development for federal agencies. An awards-based competitive program structured in three phases meant to promote high-tech innovation and scientific excellence, SBIR is administered by the Small Business Administration. To qualify for SBIR grants, you must operate a for-profit business with no more than 500 employees that performs its work in the U.S., in addition to fulfilling all other eligibility requirements.

Award amount: Generally, $50,000 to $250,000 for six months under phase I, and $750,000 for two years under phase II.

How to apply: If you meet all the requirements of the program, visit SBIR to begin the application process.

Small Business Technology Transfer program 

Like the SBIR program, the STTR program is a highly competitive grant program that focuses on funding research for innovation, research and development by domestic small businesses on behalf of federal agencies. However, STTR intends to foster technology transfer through cooperative R&D and requires small businesses to have a formal collaboration with a research institution, in addition to other eligibility requirements

Award amount: Generally, $50,000 to $250,000 for one year under phase I, and $750,000 for two years under phase II.

How to apply: You can apply for the grant by visiting the program’s website.

State Trade Expansion program

The SBA’s STEP program was created to help small businesses seeking to start or expand into international markets. As funding for the STEP grants is provided by state entities, applicants are required to meet criteria set by their respective states.

Qualifying small businesses can use the STEP grants to engage in export training workshops or webinars, to participate in foreign trade missions and show exhibits, to develop websites and to design international marketing campaigns as well as e-commerce capabilities.

Award amount: Varies

Where to apply: You can start the process of applying for a STEP grant here

Minority Business Development Agency funding

Under this initiative, targeted grants and loans are extended by the MBDA, a federal agency under the Commerce Department, to minority business enterprises owned and operated by African Americans, Asian Americans, Hasidic Jews, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

The program also offers customized business development and industry-focused services to eligible businesses to give them greater access to capital, contracts and markets.

Award amount: Varies

Where to apply: You can apply for an MBDA grant here.

Economic Development Administration funding

The EDA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, offers grant opportunities for projects that support regional and national economic development. The grants focus on assisting underserved Indigenous communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Eligible applicants can apply for a variety of rolling-basis EDA grants that fund projects in construction, nonconstruction, technical assistance, planning, research and evaluation, higher education and more.

Award amount: Varies.

Where to apply: You can apply for EDA grant opportunities here.

COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan

Though not a grant, this SBA program provides low-interest (2.75% or 3.75% fixed), 30-year loans to small businesses. Payments are deferred for the first two years, with interest accruing, and payments comprising principal and interest are made over the remaining 28-year loan term.

To qualify, COVID EIDL requires businesses to be located in low-income communities and experiencing a loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that have already obtained a loan under this program can also apply for a loan increase on the SBA’s portal

Loan amount: Maximum $2 million; collateral required for loans greater than $25,000; personal guaranty required for loans over than $200,000.

Where to apply: You can apply for an EIDL loan here.

Additional resources:

There is no one-stop portal for searching all grant types. But to access the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of federal grants, be sure to visit site Grants.gov

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