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The application period opens today for a grant program that is designed aid certain Arkansas businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Main Street El Dorado is working to ensure that local businesses are aware of the assistance that is being offered and how to apply for their fair share.

Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street El Dorado, said there is a small window of opportunity to apply for the Arkansas Business Interruption Grant, which focuses on businesses within the service and hospitality industries.

The deadline to apply is Nov. 25.

Brumley and members of the Main Street El Dorado board of directors first discussed the grant last month, with Brumley saying then that she was awaiting more information from the state.

The program resulted from a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, Arkansas Department of Commerce, Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

Last month, Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that the Arkansas Legislative Council had approved the Arkansas Business Interruption Grant for certain businesses in the personal care, tourism, travel, recreation and hospitality industries.

The grant will reimburse a portion of eligible expenses that were incurred by businesses between March 1 and Sept. 30.

Grant awards will be prorated, depending on the total number of applicants and the amount of reimbursement that applicants request.

State officials are expected to announce grant awards in late December.

In a video that is available on YouTube, officials with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism outline the application process and guidelines.

Stacy Hurst, secretary of the ADPHT, said that soon after the COVID-19 outbreak , the department began hearing from business entities within the state’s hospitality and service industries “that were having a hard time operating their businesses and surviving” the effects of the public health crisis.”

The ADPHT subsequently began working with Hutchinson and state legislators to put together a relief package that included help for businesses that were affected by state-issued COVID-19 mandates and guidelines that resulted in business interruption or closure, Hurst explained.

“Any entity that was impacted by that will benefit from this grant,” Hurst said, adding that the grant is available to such businesses as salons and health clubs, in addition to hotels and restaurants.

“I’m proud that the state is offering this money to those kinds of businesses — restaurants and beauty parlors and massage parlors — places that were forced to close because of government mandates,” Brumley said.

She emphasized that businesses do not have to be within the Main Street El Dorado footprint to apply for the business interruption grant and she encouraged all local businesses who are eligible to submit an application.

Grant awards will not exceed $250,000. A maximum of $50 million has been allocated for the grant program.

For more information or to apply for the business interruption grant, visit www.arkansasready.com.

Also call the Main Street El Dorado office at 870-862-4747, send an email to Brumley at [email protected] or visit the Main Street Facebook page or website at www.mainstreeteldorado.org.

The title of the YouTube video is “AR Business Interruption Grant Guidelines and Application Process.”

“We’ll still trying to see if we can apply for some of those funds, as well. We were greatly impacted, not being able to have some events this year,” Brumley said, adding that MSE is also working to mitigate a loss in revenue for 2020.

Board members have said the group’s last money-making event was money-making event was a Harlem Globetrotters’ exhibition that was held in February in Wildcat Arena and drew a sold-out crowd.

Since then, Main Street has had to cancel several events, including MusicFest, its flagship fundraiser. Brumley previously said MSE has enough money in its budget to last until February.

MSE draws much of its income from events and activities that are supported by sponsors and other revenue sources, such as grants.

Brumley said that she and MSE board members have spent the past two months with a consultant who was recommended by the Main Street Arkansas program to develop a fundraising strategy to help MSE survive COVID-19 pandemic.

One component of the strategy is to work with an advertising firm to help get the word out about the goals, functions and mission of the MSE program, Brumley said, adding that many people are not aware of all of the projects that MSE undertakes to help maintain and boost the economic vitality of the downtown El Dorado.

Board members initially planned to roll out the campaign in October but Brumley said they needed more time to finalize some of the details of the plan.

The board then opted to wait until the end of election season to focus on unveiling the campaign and seeking community support, Brumley explained.

She said last week that one of the final details is to set sponsorship levels that target different groups, such as corporate and individual sponsorships.

“We are still moving forward with our fundraising campaign,” Brumley said.

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