SBRG Program’s FAQs

Berks County developed the Small Business Restart Grant (SBRG) Program to provide financial assistance and support to business owners who were adversely affected by the economic downtown associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary business closings, and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania “Stay at Home” orders. While Berks County understands that there may be greater demand than the supply of grant funds to award, all business owners who are both eligible and submit complete applications will receive consideration. Thank you.

SBRG Program’s FAQs

1. When will I be able to submit my application, and what is the deadline?
Answer: Berks County’s SBRG Program application process will begin on Monday, June 29, 2020, and we will be accepting applications until all program funds are expended.
2. When will I find out if I was approved for a small business grant?
Answer: The committee will begin reviewing all completed applications on the morning of Monday, June 29, 2020. Applicants should anticipate an approval or disapproval decision within ten (10) business days , though the response could take longer depending on the number of SBRG Program applications received.
3. I was approved for a small business grant. How long will it take before I receive my grant amount?
Answer: Program applicants will provide information in the grant application to expedite payment once approved. After a business is approved (i.e., based on the submittal of all required paperwork and signing the grant agreement), grant funds will be disbursed via check to approved business owners starting on Monday, August 3, 2020.
4. If I am disapproved this round, can I apply again later for a second Berks County grant program?
Answer: NO. Currently, Berks County received U.S. Housing and Urban Development CDBG-CV Program funds to assist small business owners through this SBRG Program. Moreover, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is planning to administer its own Federal CARES Act grant assistance program for small business owners in all 67 counties, which includes Berks County.
5. Can I be awarded more than once?
Answer: NO. This is a one-time small business grant award using Federal funds.
6. My business was deemed non-essential and was ordered to close. Am I still eligible for a grant?
Answer: YES. Businesses deemed non-essential under the Commonwealth’s and County’s “Stay at Home” orders are eligible to apply.
7. My business has annual gross revenue of $1,000,000 or less. Am I eligible for this grant program?
Answer: YES. Businesses with annual gross revenues of $1,000,000 or less will be considered for Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program.
8. My business has annual gross revenue of over $1,000,000. Am I eligible for this grant program?
Answer: NO. Businesses with annual gross revenues over $1,000,000 will not be considered for Berks County’s SBRG Program.
9. If I am able to operate my business, but I had to reduce employees due to a slowdown in patron traffic and/or reduced revenues, will I qualify for Berks County’s SBRG Program?
Answer: YES. However, the SBRG Program gives preference to a business owner(s) who can demonstrate, to the best of his/her/their ability, that retaining employees is a priority as evidenced by payroll records and business revenues.
10. Do I have to retain employees if I get this grant money?
Answer: YES. Berks County wants to help spur the economy, assist as many small business owners to re-open and restart their businesses, continue their operations for the long-term, and save as many employee jobs as possible. To reiterate, the County will give preference to business grant applicants who make a concerted effort to retain employees.
11. If I receive this funding will I still be able to apply for other funding at the state and federal level?
Answer: POSSIBLY. Business owner(s) may only submit one (1) grant application per business for Berks County’s federally-funded SBRG Program. Please consult with your accountant and attorney, and/or contact Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center to find out what Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and federally-funded small business programs are still open and available to you.
12. If I received Federal and/or State funding for COVID-19 related business losses, will I be still eligible to receive funding from this grant program?
Answer: POSSIBLY. Federal law prohibits any person, business concern, or other entity from receiving Federal funds for any part of such loss as to which he has received financial assistance under any other program or from insurance or any other source. Please consult with your accountant and attorney, and/or contact Kutztown University’s Small Business Development Center to find out what Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and federally-funded small business programs are still open and available to you.
13. Will business owners need to calculate business losses—due to temporary business closings directly related to COVID-19 from March 15, 2020 to June 15, 2020—to be eligible for Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program?
Answer: YES. All business owners who apply for Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program will need to calculate their respective business losses due to COVID-19 from March 15, 2020 to June 15, 2020.
14. Will business owners need to disclose and provide copies of all federal, state, and local funding assistance received (e.g., from business insurance, FEMA, SBA, private loan, line of credit, charitable institution funding sources, etc.) associated with COVID-19 to be eligible for Berks County’s federally-funded grant program?
Answer: YES. All business owners who apply for Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program will be required to disclose, provide copies of all federal, state, and local funding assistance received (e.g., from business insurance, FEMA, SBA, private loan, line of credit, charitable institution funding sources, etc.) due to COVID-19, and certify that all information provided for grant application processing are true, accurate, and complete.
15. What happens if a business owner(s) inadvertently or intentionally does not accurately disclose that his/her/their business received federal, state, and local funding assistance (e.g., from business insurance, FEMA, SBA, private loan, line of credit, charitable institution funding sources, etc.) due to COVID-19?
Answer: The U.S. Federal Government will require all recipients of CARES Act funded programs (loans and grants) to reimburse those fund amounts that were awarded in excess of the business owner’s losses. Berks County is mandated to enforce the Federal Government’s “Prevention of Duplication of Benefit” policy, recapture or recover funds from all business owners who received more federal assistance than justified, and business owners will be required to repay (possibly with penalties and/or interest) any COVID-19 funds received for the same purpose that were awarded in excess of the business’ total financial losses and/or need.
16. I own multiple businesses. Can I apply for Berks County’s SBRG Program more than once?
Answer: NO. If you have multiple businesses that are separate legal entities in Berks County, you may submit only one (1) grant application. Only one (1) business grant will be awarded to an eligible business owner(s) who own/s multiple businesses with 51 percent controlling interest in Berks County.
17. My business has multiple locations. Can I apply more than once?
Answer: NO, if you have a single business entity that has more than one location in Berks County, you can submit only one (1) grant application for your business.
18. Do I need to be a Berks County resident?
Answer: NO, but your business must be physically located within the county limits of Berks County, Pennsylvania.
19. Are there any businesses that are not eligible to receive grant assistance?

Answer: YES. The following business entities are NOT eligible:

  • Franchisors;
  • Hotels or Motels;
  • National/Regional Chain Businesses;
  • Financial/Lending Institutions;
  • Private Membership or Fraternal Organizations/Businesses;
  • Adult-Oriented Businesses;
  • Federally Prohibited Businesses;
  • Businesses that derive 30 percent or more of their annual gross revenues from legal gambling (Pennsylvania Lottery)
  • Business owner(s) seeking multiple business grants with 51 percent ownership control in more than one business;*
  • Business owner(s) cannot be delinquent on taxes to Federal, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Berks County, and other municipal sub-divisions of the state or county prior to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Business owner(s) cannot be in default of any loan agreement, lease, or financing agreement with creditors prior to COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Business owner(s) cannot be the subject of an existing judgement, mortgage property lien, or bankruptcy that has not been cured;
  • Business owner(s) cannot be in default of a Federal, State, County, and/or Municipal government loan(s); and
  • Businesses owned in part or fully by Berks County and related municipalities’ staff, administrative, or leadership employees.

* NOTE: Only one (1) business grant will be awarded to an eligible business owner(s) who own/s multiple businesses with 51 percent controlling interest in Berks County;

20. If I am an individual who files taxes as an independent contractor or sole proprietor (Schedule C and 1099s to the IRS), am I still eligible as a business?
Answer: POSSIBLY. The program will be open to business owners who have one (1) or more full-time equivalent (FTE) W-2 employees.
21. If my business has subcontractors that file 1099 Forms (rather than a W-2 Forms), should they be counted in the number of employees?

Answer: NO. However, they should be referenced in the narrative sections as applicable:

  1. Please describe the current impact of COVID-19 on your business; and
  2. How will you use these funds to help your business retain employees?
22. If my business is new and does not yet have tax return documents, can I still apply?
Answer: NO. Only businesses that have been in operation for at least one (1) year are eligible. Kindly make sure your business began operations before April 1, 2019 to meet the minimum operational time requirement to be eligible and considered.
23. My business is a non-profit. Can I still apply?
Answer: NO. For-Profit Businesses will be considered for Berk County’s federally-funded grant program.
24. How much money will be distributed in total as part of Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program?
Answer: The fund is being launched with approximately $1.8 million to be distributed, with funding going toward grant applicants requesting between $5,000 and $50,000.
25. How many businesses do you expect to approve and disburse funds?
Answer: This will depend on the requested award amounts, and how many businesses apply for grant amounts between $5,000 and $50,000. The number of grant awards will vary based on the total number of business owner(s) who apply, and how much they individually and collectively request.
26. Is there a period of time that I must use my grant award to remain in compliance with Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program?
Answer: YES. All grant award recipients must use these funds prior to December 31, 2020, and for resumption of business operations in Berks County.
27. What specific program requirements do I need to satisfy to qualify for Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant Program?
Answer: For a business owner(s) to qualify for and receive the grant amount awarded, the business owner(s) must complete the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance’s three-part “Best Practices for Re-Opening Your Business Certificate Program” by no later than December 31, 2020.
28. Do I have to complete the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance’s (GRCA’s) three-part “Best Practices for Re-Opening Your Business Certificate Program” by no later than December 31, 2020?
Answer: YES. Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant (SBRG) Program requires all for-profit business owners who apply and are awarded a grant amount (i.e., $5,000 – $50,000) must complete the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance’s (GRCA’s) three-part “Best Practices for Re-Opening Your Business Certificate Program” by no later than December 31, 2020. This policy is a SBRG Program Requirement.
29. How will grant award decisions be made?
Answer: All eligible business owner(s) will be evaluated on the basis of complete grant applications. Your grant application will be date and time stamped. All grant applicants are encouraged to apply early.
30. My business is a corporation applying for a grant. Why am I being asked to fill out a consent form for a personal credit inquiry.
Answer: If you are applying for a Berks County federally-funded grant, we will be doing a soft pull on the personal credit for any owner of the business with over 20 percent ownership. There is minimum credit score of 620 for this grant program.
31. Are applications awarded on a first come, first serve basis?
Answer: NO. Applications will be received and reviewed over ten (10) business days through an objective process. Applications will be scored based on established criteria, and grant application decisions will either be approved or denied.
32. Who will review applications?
Answer: NO. Applications will be received and reviewed over ten (10) business days through an objective process. Applications will be scored based on established criteria, and grant application decisions will either be approved or denied.
33. Will the applicants who speak Spanish primarily receive follow-up communication and award letters in their language?
Answer: NO. However, Neighborhood Housing Services possesses bilingual staff members who may provide language access when possible and as needed in Spanish.
34. Besides Spanish, is information about this program available in other languages?
Answer: NO. However, if possible, NHS can contact partner organizations that may have volunteers to assist with other languages.
35. Can someone help me complete the application, and/or answer other questions not answered in this FAQs?
Answer: YES. Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) will provide assistance and/or advice on how to complete the SBRG Program application. Information not covered in this FAQs document may be answered by calling NHS’ dedicated information line at 610-372-8433.

APPLICANT TECHNICAL FAQ’s

36. I keep pressing submit and my application will not go through.
Answer: Scroll to the top of the application page and look for an error message. This should tell you what fields in the application you may have missed.
37. I don’t have a scanner. How can I get my tax returns and other documents in the application?
Answer: If you are unable to attach or upload any document (fully or partly) in your online grant application, you must bring your completed and signed application with all requested documents—as noted on the checklist—in person to Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks, Inc. during normal business hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
38. It says that my files are too large?
Answer: All files should not exceed 14MB (megabytes), which is approximately 1,000 PDF pages depending on quality. We recommend you save files in PDF format with 150 DPI quality or lower. TIP: You can compress your PDF size using this free online tool: https://smallpdf.com/compress-pdf.
39. Are you accepting paper applications?
Answer: YES. To protect the public and county employees, all nonessential County offices are closed, so we are accepting and processing applications remotely. However, under special circumstances (e.g., ADA accommodations, other documented special needs, etc.), Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks will accept paper applications on a case-by-case basis. Only completed applications signed by all parties with a complete checklist of required documents will be accepted.
40. What is a BIRT number, and how can I find mine?
Answer: BIRT stands for the “Business Income Receipt Tax” and each business has an Account Number. (The BIRT was formerly called Business Privilege Tax or BPT.) Look at your County Tax Return for BIRT or Net Profits—paper or online or payment coupon.
41. Will these applications be subject to Right-to-Know requests? In particular, requests for income and expense information from SBRG Program applicants’ data?
Answer: Personal financial information and personal identifiable information are exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Act (or the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law). As defined, the RTK Act is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania. However, the RTK Act exempts personal identifiable information from disclosure: 1) all or part of a person’s Social Security number; 2) driver’s license number; 3) personal financial information; 4) home, cellular, or personal telephone numbers; 5) personal email addresses; and 6) employee number or other confidential personal identification number.NOTE: Berks County via Neighborhood Housing Services will redact such personal identifiable information from responses to Right-to-Know Law requests that it receives. Therefore, all public record requests should be addressed to NHS’ open records officer, and please use the contact information provided on NHS’ website to make appropriate requests.