Small businesses struggling during certain qualifying events are eligible for a grant program under a bill passed April 13.
LB598, introduced in 2021 by Lincoln Sen. Anna Wishart, codifies an existing pandemic relief grant program within the state Department of Economic Development under the Business Innovation Act and makes it available in the future to eligible businesses in the event of a natural disaster, pandemic or other emergency declared by the governor.
To qualify for a grant under the bill, a business must be physically located in Nebraska and have annual revenue of less than $1 million. An eligible business also must demonstrate a significant loss of gross revenue — at least 50 percent over a period of one month or more from the amount of gross revenue received over the same period in the prior year.
Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis while funds remain. Individual business awards are capped at $12,000.
The bill includes provisions of Wishart’s LB1163 that increase a series of annual caps under the Business Innovation Act. The provisions increase the cap from $2 million to $3 million for the microloan program and from $4 million to $6 million for the following grant programs:
• small business planning;
• financial assistance to small businesses;
• innovation in value-added agriculture; and
• financial assistance to businesses that use the facilities of a public or private college in Nebraska for applied research and development of new products or use intellectual property generated at a public or private college or university in Nebraska.
Also included are provisions of LB1116, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, which increase from $4 million to $5 million the annual cap under the Business Innovation Act for the financial assistance program for creating prototypes.
The provisions also reduce the matching amount to 25 percent for businesses in an economic redevelopment area in a metropolitan class city, defined as an area in which the average rate of unemployment is at least 150 percent of the state average and the average poverty rate for the area’s federal census tract is 20 percent or more. Omaha is the state’s only metropolitan class city.
LB598 passed on a 45-0 vote and took effect immediately.