ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A grant program launched on Thursday will invest $750,000 in Albany businesses and entrepreneurs as they work to cover COVID-related expenses, grow their expertise, and expand business services. Applications for round one of the Small Business Vitality Assistance Program’s three rounds are now being accepted, with $250,000 in flexible financial assistance being provided.

Funded through the City of Albany’s $80.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act award, and available to businesses and entrepreneurs within city limits, the grant will be administered through the Central Avenue Business Improvement District, in partnership with the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District, Arbor Hill Development Corporation, Albany Chapter of the NAACP, and the Small Business Development Center.

Business owners are invited to attend upcoming Small Business Resource Open Houses to learn more about the program, in addition to other grant and business service programs available to new and existing business owners in the city of Albany. The events are being held at 6 p.m. on January 12 at the Albany Housing Authority, and on January 19 at the Albany Public Library Delaware Avenue Branch.

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted 96% of small businesses nationally, and according to Goldman Sachs surveys, 44% of small business owners have less than three months of cash reserves, a number even higher—51%—among Black-owned small businesses, and 29% of respondents noted that they’d recently experienced difficulty raising capital or higher borrowing costs. By providing Albany’s small business owners with funding, the Small Business Vitality Assistance program offers the opportunity to pay COVID-related debt including back rent, utilities, and vendor bills, in addition to enrolling in an entrepreneur boot camp or other related training courses, implementing technology upgrades, and more, without having to spend savings or apply for additional loans.

“Since the moment the pandemic began, the City of Albany has been laser-focused on helping small businesses adapt and overcome the challenges brought on by the shutdown and subsequent recovery,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “After providing more than $2 million to a variety of small business grant programs through Capitalize Albany and the Albany Community Development Agency, we knew there was more to be done to help support the backbone of our neighborhoods. That is why the City’s COVID Recovery Task Force and ARPA Leadership Team felt so strongly that we fund programs that help our hard-hit small businesses recover and grow, and I commend the Downtown Albany BID and Central Avenue BID for launching this business vitality program that will do just that. Thank you to President Biden, Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Gillibrand, and Congressman Tonko for making the American Rescue Plan Act a reality and supporting our small businesses.”

The Small Business Vitality Assistance program will assist in three separate categories: COVID recovery grants, entrepreneur class/program tuition, and technical assistance. Grants of $2,000 to $15,000 will be awarded, with individual funding based on the application that meets the basic eligibility requirements, demonstrated need, and business fluency.

Businesses eligible for Small Business Vitality Assistance must be located in the City of Albany, have no more than 20 full-time employees, be a registered New York State business, be engaged in activities that are legal under New York and federal law, and be in good standing with local, state, and federal taxing and licensing authorities.

Interested businesses should complete the online intake form on the program’s website. A representative from the SBDC will schedule a meeting with the applicant. To be considered for the Small Business Vitality Assistance, all applicants must meet with an SBDC counselor. Questions should be directed to