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State Program Funnels More Than $123 Million To Small Businesses



More than 8,200 small Montana businesses have received state grants to help get through the coronavirus pandemic, according to numbers released by the Department of Commerce Aug. 21.

Joe Petersen, the owner of Three Forks Saddlery, says sales were up this summer as people looked to horseback riding as a way to get out of their homes. But he’s been worried about what could happen this winter.

The business typically takes in tens of thousands of dollars in December at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“It’s been a huge deal for us because we get to sell a lot of saddles and get a lot of saddle orders, and so it kind of helps us through the winter. And so now we just found out that we don’t get to go,” Petersen said.

Like a lot of sports, rodeo organizers are trying to figure out how to operate under a pandemic and may not allow fans.

Petersen says receiving grant money through the state’s Business Stabilization Program has given him some piece of mind.

“This grant has been amazing to help us get some extra inventory and so we don’t have to do as much buying and pay for our employees, you know, when it starts slowing down,” Petersen said.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees and revenue loss due to the pandemic were eligible for grants up to $10,000 or three months of working capital through the state’s Business Stabilization Program.

Since May, it’s funneled more than $123 million of federal coronavirus relief money to small businesses to support payroll, rent, accounts payable, debt service and expenses related to shifts in operations in order to retain existing businesses, retain current employees or retain business viability for future re employment.

Unlike the federal Paycheck Protection Program, the grants through the state do not require recipients to spend a certain percentage of the money on payroll.

Nearly $22 million the state’s Business Stabilization Program went to businesses in Gallatin County, the highest dollar amount in the state, followed by Missoula, Yellowstone and Flathead counties.

Businesses awarded a grant prior to Aug. 12 are eligible to receive a second round of funding.

New applicants can apply for up to six months of working capital or a $20,000 grant.

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