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Lamont Hopeful for New Federal COVID Funds, Announces $35 Million Grant Program

The federal coronavirus aid bill will assist small businesses and extend unemployment benefits, as well as providing a direct payment, but as a ‘bridge’ the governor also announced a $35 million grant program to assist small- to medium-sized Connecticut businesses, mostly restaurants and bars, that have face hardship due to the pandemic.

By Hugh McQuaid, CTNewsJunkie.com

Gov. Ned Lamont hailed the expected passage of a federal coronavirus aid package Monday, which was poised to fund another round of small business assistance, extend unemployment insurance, and provide $600 direct payments to residents.

“I’m very confident – and I wouldn’t have said this for the last six months – it will be voted on in the next 12, 24 hours,” Lamont said of the $900 billion COVID relief package which Congressional leaders negotiated over the weekend.

Lamont spoke during a televised news briefing from the state Capitol building. He said his staff was still combing through the 5,600-page bill, but expected it to extend much-needed relief to Connecticut residents and businesses and provide his administration with some certainty to plan for his budget proposal in about two weeks.

“I think you can see that it’s a pretty substantial package and when it gets going it’s going to make a real difference,” he said.

Among the programs funded by the bill will be $325 billion for small business assistance programs. The governor said he expected Connecticut’s share of those funds to be about $3.25 billion. The money will help pay for another round of Paycheck Protection Program assistance, which helped provide forgivable loans for almost 60,000 Connecticut businesses earlier this year.

David Lehman, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said companies that received a loan during the first round of stimulus funding may be eligible for a second if they can demonstrate financial hardship.

“If you had a good experience, go back to your bank, go back to your online lender and start talking to them about getting your application in process or ready to get in process for when it opens up in early January,” Lehman said.

In the meantime, Lamont announced $35 million in new grants for small to midsize Connecticut businesses. He said about 2,000 businesses would receive the grants, which will range from $10,000 to $30,000, depending on the size of the business. Most of the businesses will likely be bars and restaurants, he said.

“Close to 2,000 businesses will get that support as a bridge to the PPP, which starts up, hopefully, by the end of January,” Lamont said.

Under the relief bill, Connecticut is also expected to receive $1.2 billion in additional unemployment insurance funding. The bill is expected to fund another 11 weeks of unemployment benefits. However, the governor warned it could be another month before jobless residents start to see benefit checks.

“I’ve been warned it’s going to take a little time and I remember how much frustration there was eight months ago,” he said. “I would not expect my first checks, certainly not in this calendar year. Probably sometime in mid, or later January. Sorry about that.”

Some relief may come sooner. Lamont said the direct $600 payments, which many residents will receive, could start being mailed out next week.

Lamont said the bill would provide almost $250 million in rent relief funding. Additional funding will go to support K-12 education as well as colleges and universities, he said.

Republished with permission from CTNewsJunkie.com, all rights reserved.

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