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New grant to help businesses adapt to ‘new normal’

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino announced Friday the launch of a program that will help local small businesses adjust to the “new normal” and survive the financial impacts caused by COVID-19.

The county has allocated $5 million to the Adaptability Fund, a grant program funded by the federal CARES Act and proposed by Victorino’s MauiCARES Task Force. It is now open to begin accepting online applications.

The Maui Economic Development Board is administering the Adaptability Fund.

“This is just another program to help support small business as they make adjustments to our new normal and retool their operations,” Victorino said during a news conference.

“We can’t stay shut down forever,” he said.

Businesses and employees will have access to coaching on how to adapt to the changing economy, as well as grants to help invest in technology infrastructure to expand their web presence, web-based marketing and e-commerce.

Grants range from about $5,000 to $25,000, but some grants may fall below or above this expected range depending upon the applicants’ proposals.

“It’s meant to be flexible, to help businesses apply for funding to restructure and retool their businesses for the changing economic conditions that we have today,” said Leslie Wilkins, president and CEO of MEDB. “We are now seven months into this unprecedented time of this pandemic, and every month more stresses and changes emerge on our economy, so we’re very hopeful that this can help our businesses restructure and look to the future.”

Wilkins said Friday that grants are open to for-profit and nonprofit small businesses that are currently open or are anticipating to open under the safety and health guidelines. Small businesses with certain specified needs and those that have not received prior support in the form of grants or loans will be prioritized.

Independent contractors, consultants and creative and entertainment businesses, including artists, artisans, musicians and cultural performers, also are eligible.

When applying, businesses must provide: three months of business banking statements; the most current (dated June 30 or later) balance sheet and statement of profit and loss; an active registered business name with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs and a current Certificate of Good Standing dated June 1 or later by the DCCA. The certificate must show incorporation in the state of Hawaii and a mailing address in Maui County.

Applicants are required to submit a detailed budget with proposed expenses and an explanation of how these investments will support their plans and “help them thrive,” Wilkins said.

Businesses must also provide the most recent general excise tax filing dated on or after June 30 and be an established business prior to March 20.

On acceptance, the initial grant distribution is expected to cover 50 percent of the total amount approved. A spreadsheet template detailing relevant expenses must be completed, with supporting receipts or proof of payment, as well as a final report to receive the remaining funds.

These documents must be received no later than Nov. 16.

Businesses that are not eligible include nationally or internationally-owned chains, but locally-owned franchises are eligible. Noneligible expenses include those incurred prior to March 20; taxes other than sales tax on purchases and those not related to COVID-19 mitigation.

Victorino reminded the community that although more resources have become available, the reopening process will still be methodical and systematic.

“We don’t want to have to pull back, and we don’t want to have to stop, but we have to make sure that all the safety protocols are in place,” he said. “Yes I know that there’s people that are saying ‘you’re taking too long, and we’re losing our businesses.’

“Well, I’ve got to do it right because if we do it wrong, look what happened on Oahu, they opened up and they had to shut down,” he said.

For information on the Maui County Adaptability Fund, visit MauiCountyAdaptabilityFund.org, call 875-2300 or email AdaptabilityFund@me db.org.

In other COVID-19 developments:

• County Managing Director Sandy Baz announced that the state Department of Transportation is partnering with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to combat human trafficking through a Blue Lighting Initiative program. Aviation personnel will be trained on how to combat human trafficking by detecting warning signs.

• Baz also reminded the public that the eviction moratorium has been extended through the end of October. Renters can apply for the state’s Rent Relief and Housing Assistance Fund by visiting hihousinghelp.com or through the county’s HELP Program at meoinc.org.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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