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Fewer than 10 percent of small businesses that applied are expected to get state grants

More than 10,000 applicants sought pandemic aid this fall

In this file photo taken on March 24, 2020 a boy is reflected as he looks into the window of a closed barbershop in Boston, Massachusetts.
In this file photo taken on March 24, 2020 a boy is reflected as he looks into the window of a closed barbershop in Boston, Massachusetts.AFP via Getty Images

Only about one of every 10 applicants for two new state grant programs to help small businesses endure the COVID-19 pandemic will get any money for now, due to overwhelming demand for the funds.

That is the word from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, the quasi-public agency overseeing the programs. It sent an e-mail to applicants the night before Thanksgiving, informing them it had received more than $518 million in grant requests for $50.8 million in available funding. Mass. Growth Capital said that means it will be able to provide grants only to about 9 percent of the applicants, without additional funding.

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The Globe had reported earlier that day that Mass. Growth Capital had received more than 10,000 applications, flooding the agency in the four-week window that requests could be made. One program offers grants of up to $75,000 for businesses with 50 or fewer employees; the other offers up to $25,000 for businesses with five or fewer workers but is limited to owners with below-average incomes.

It was clear that the twin programs, launched in October with federal funds, were wildly oversubscribed and that many small-business owners would end up disappointed. Just how many, though, was not clear: The Baker administration had declined to say how many would get grants at that point, and whether the intention was to give out the maximum amounts requested, or to dole out reduced amounts to spread the wealth.

The e-mail to applicants implies Mass. Growth Capital is looking to provide the full amounts requested, or close to those amounts.

The decisions about who wins and who loses in this round will be made in December. The agency is prioritizing businesses owned by women, people of color, and veterans, as well as those in so-called Gateway Cities, those most negatively affected by the pandemic, and those that have not received prior federal aid.

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Mass. Growth Capital also hinted at more to come: State lawmakers have approved $17.5 million, or half of what Governor Charlie Baker sought, in their budget plans for the current fiscal year to partially replenish these small-business grant programs.

The House and Senate still need to reconcile the differences between their budget proposals, but both versions contain money for the two small-business grant programs.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.