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Self-employed get COVID booster shot

Staff Writer | May 27, 2020 1:13 AM

Gov. Brad Little expanded access Tuesday to grant money to include self-employed Idahoans, enveloping the sole proprietor workforce with small businesses looking for relief from the economic turmoil the coronavirus has inflicted on the state.

The governor also expanded the employee threshold for qualifying small businesses from 19 employees to 50, noting that the decision to set aside $300 million in funding early on helped give the state the flexibility to direct relief packages where they belong.

“The nice thing about what we did is, we got to establish the parameters of what qualifies,” Little said. “Some of the other new unemployment programs are a mish-mash of federal laws and state laws. Because we were able to create it ourselves, we believe it’s much more efficient how we deliver those funds out to the people of Idaho. And it really is a safety net for people that didn’t qualify for some of the other programs.”

The funds are part of a $1.25 billion relief package Idaho received through the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act legislation passed in late March. Of that $1.25 billion, Little made $300 million available to small businesses May 11. Today those funds will now be available to the self-employed.

“We announced we would put $300 million to small business relief,” said Alex Adams, administrator of the Idaho Division of Financial Management. “Our focus was on those businesses that fell through the cracks of other federal programs.”

One pocket of the Idaho economy that’s been clamoring for relief since the governor’s March 25 stay-home order has come from the self-employed, the sole proprietors, the independent contractors and the small business owners. The former three were not included in the initial forgivable loans handed down through the Congressional aid package, a federal oversight Little’s administration said needed to be corrected.

Those entrepreneurs can now apply for up to $7,500 in grant money. The grants will only be given to businesses that serve as the individual’s primary source of income, and not secondary side businesses looking for a financial boost.

Small business owners, meanwhile, represent an economy Adams said is still in need of relief.

“Many Idaho businesses, for example, were not successful in receiving paycheck protection program loans in the first round of funding by the federal government,” he said. “Many of the funds were scarfed up by businesses I would not necessarily consider small businesses.”

Small businesses with up to 50 employees can apply for up to $10,000 grants, funding that’s been available to businesses with as many as 19 employees since May 11. To date, more than 4,400 Idaho small businesses have applied, with about 3,400 already approved. The grants are targeting businesses that did not receive paycheck protection program loans.

Today’s expansion toward the self-employed has a seven-week window that begins at noon and runs through July 17. The Idaho State Tax Commission is accepting applications on its website,