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Lawmakers Debate Guidelines For Small Business Recovery Money

A closed restaurant sign.

A proposed small business recovery grant program is aimed primarily at the hospitality industry and limited to those whose revenue is $10 million a year or less. (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Indiana small businesses – particularly in the hospitality industry – are a step closer to getting help from the state to recover from the pandemic.

A Senate committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill, HB 1004, for a $30 million small business recovery grant program.

The legislation essentially puts into law a program created by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation last year, using federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

It’s aimed primarily at hospitality businesses and limited to those whose revenue is $10 million a year or less. Businesses must also show monthly revenue loss of at least 30 percent to qualify.

Patrick Tamm lobbies for Indiana restaurants and hotels. He said the grants might be too limited.

“Just within walking distance here, there are a lot of restaurants that are barely holding on, barely paying their rent – they are over that $10 million threshold,” Tamm said.

Under the bill, the grants couldn't be more than $50,000 to any individual business. 

Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) said he wants the program aimed at small businesses that need the most help.

“We either drop the guardrails or we keep the guardrails," Mishler said. "Because no matter how high you raise that cap, the next group’s going to say, ‘Oh, we just fell outside of that cap. Can you raise it a little more?’”

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

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Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) voiced concerns about how the grants would be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

"It's hard to get this information out to people," Brown said. "I would like to make sure that it's, maybe, apportioned appropriately to certain parts of the state, so that everybody at least has a chance to get a piece of it."

The Senate committee made a significant change to the measure. Under the House version of the bill, the $30 million for the program would come from the state budget. But Mishler wants it to come out of remaining federal CARES Act funds the state hasn't yet spent.

The bill now heads to the full Senate.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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