For the business leaders too busy to stop and watch the news, or to read any chamber updates in your inbox, I wanted to take this week and highlight some of the absolutely critical updates you need to know. Even if you’re not a business leader but you have friends that are, make sure they know about these programs and opportunities. Here we go:

Restaurants: Get 2020 Losses Covered With the RRF
This is huge as so many restaurants were negatively affected due to COVID-19. There is a brand new fund called the Restaurant Revitalization Fund which was established through the American Rescue Plan. According to the Small Business Association (SBA): “This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023.”

Allowable use for the funds, again according to the SBA, include: “Business payroll costs (including sick leave), payments on any business mortgage obligation, business rent payments (note: this does not include prepayment of rent), business debt service (both principal and interest; note: this does not include any prepayment of principal or interest), business utility payments. business maintenance expenses, construction of outdoor seating, business supplies (including protective equipment and cleaning materials), business food and beverage expenses (including raw materials), covered supplier costs and business operating expenses.”

To see this information directly go to SBA.gov/restaurants

The SBA is also doing two free Q & A webinars over the next week, to answer questions from businesses, one is on Friday, April 30 at 10AM and the other next Wednesday, May 5 at 10AM. Registration links for those are on the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber (SMMC) Facebook page.

This is absolutely game changing for restaurants and food providers. For example, the formula for businesses who were opened prior to 2019 is:
(2019 receipts) – (2020 receipts) – (PPP money) = (what you can apply for).
Meaning if you did $120,000 in sales in 2019, $50,000 in sales in 2020, and PPP covered $20,000, then you can apply for $50,000 in forgivable money. There are also separate formulas for businesses that began in 2019 and 2020.

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Businesses: Get Reimbursed for Employees Vaccine Time
The U.S. Treasury/IRS released a statement last week about tax credits employers can get for giving their employees time off for vaccine-related time off. The qualifications are for businesses with under 500 employees, and covers employees who take paid leave due to: COVID illness, quarantine, getting tested, getting vaccinated or caregiving someone else with COVID. The wage cap, per employee, per day is $511 meaning it covers employees making up to $2500 per week (which is the majority of Mainers).

Businesses that pay employees for qualifying leave can take the tax credit against their share of certain payroll taxes. If the amount of the credit exceeds a business’s portion of its payroll taxes, then the excess is refunded directly back to the business. Businesses can file quarterly for this credit. For more information check out the chamber blog on the home page at midcoastmaine.com or irs.gov/newsroom

MSC and DOE Asking Businesses for Deals for Teacher Appreciation Week
The Maine Department of Education and Maine State Chamber of Commerce have partnered on a super initiative to show support for the incredible teachers in our State. The plan is to highlight special business deals for teachers on Teacher Appreciation Week May 3-7, with free marketing and promotion. If your business wants to offer a special deal for teachers from May 3-7 and have it promoted through this free program, you need to sign up by Thursday, April 29. To find the sign up form, the best thing to do is visit the SMMC Facebook page and look at the post we released over the weekend- it will be one of the top ones.

Nominate Your Covid Heroes for Recognition
On May 13 we will be sharing the stories of heroes throughout the community who have helped us get through the pandemic from individuals to groups and organizations. It’s so easy to nominate someone who made your life a little easier over the last 14 months, and make sure their story is included in our recognition. We will tell several of the stories on May 13 and also share them throughout the year as we emerge from this pandemic. To nominate someone simply either log on to the SMMC homepage at midcoastmaine.com and scroll down to the nomination story, or check out the recent posts on the SMMC Facebook page. You may also simply write a 100-word or less nomination in an e-mail and send it to me at [email protected]

Bath Hiring Fair, May 1
Main Street Bath is hosting a hiring event this Saturday, May 1 from 9-11 a.m. at 31 Centre St., aka Beacon Park. For businesses interested in signing up, contact the Main Street Bath office, and for those looking for a position with a local company, feel free to show up for on-the-spot interviews with many local downtown Bath businesses.

One Final Note on Hiring…
I’d be hard-pressed to find a dozen of my members who aren’t trying to hire right now- that’s an exaggeration of course, but it sure seems that way. With that, our chamber is looking to hold a hiring event in May in Topsham and hope to have that date and time to release next week. Additionally, if you’re holding hiring events, please send them to me at the Chamber office so I can promote them. Also, be sure you get in touch with the Southern Midcoast CareerCenter as they have a connection to a number of job seekers. John Wagner at the CareerCenter does weekly industry specific virtual job fairs too and, depending on the week, he may need more businesses.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

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