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Small Business Operations Grant

The Cambridge Small Business Operations Grant Program provides direct help to businesses. The grant can pay for operational costs such as rent, payroll, inventory, and equipment. The grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The goal of the grant is to help small businesses in and around Cambridge's commercial districts recover and adapt from ongoing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All businesses must be local, non-franchise businesses with 50 or fewer full-time employees.

We are accepting grant applications between January 16 - February 16, 2024, at 12:00 p.m. EST.

Grant Overview – What the Grant Can Be Used For

Brick and Mortar Businesses

Brick and mortar businesses could receive a grant up to $15,000 to reimburse small businesses for the following expenses from March 3, 2021 until April 30, 2024:

  • Commercial rent/mortgage 
  • Employee wages/payroll
  • New equipment
  • Inventory expenses
  • Marketing expenses
  • Delivery expenses
  • Other business operating expenses not included above

Home Based Businesses

Home based businesses, including livery businesses (e.g. taxi, Uber driver) could receive a grant up to $7,500 to reimburse small businesses for the following expenses from March 3, 2021 until April 30, 2024.

  • Equipment 
  • Marketing expenses
  • Owner/employee payroll
  • Inventory expenses
  • Other business operating expenses not included above

Grant funds cannot be used for the following:

  • construction projects
  • to pay for local, state, or federal taxes, bills, permit or license fees owed 
  • repayment of any previous federal or local grants/loans owed
  • new vehicles

Eligibility

If your answer to most of these questions is  “yes,”  you could be eligible for this grant:

  • Is your current non-franchise business located and operating in Cambridge, MA? 
  • Do you have 50 or fewer full-time employees including yourself? 
  • Is your business still in operation? 
  • Can you provide business tax returns or profit and loss statements that show your business loss of sales between 2019 and 2021? 
  • Do you have a Cambridge business certificate?

Businesses that are already participating in other City grant programs can still apply to the Small Business Operations Grant. Some exclusions apply.

Businesses NOT eligible for this grant: 

  • Businesses not located in Cambridge, MA
  • Cambridge businesses that recently closed 
  • Cambridge businesses that have signed a lease, opened, or started on or after April 2021. Businesses must be in operation prior to April 2021.  
  • Cambridge businesses that cannot provide taxes or sales documents that show a loss of sales/revenues from 2019 and 2021
  • Businesses not currently compliant with all federal, state and local laws and regulations pertaining to zoning, licensing, and permits
  • Although cannabis businesses are permitted in the City of Cambridge, the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law for any purpose. Since this is a federally-funded program, cannabis businesses are not eligible for the program
  • Businesses that received a City-ARPA Grant (such as the Restaurant-Nightlife Relief Grant or Small Business Relief Grant) and have not provided proof of use for those grants to City staff

How to Apply

Applications were due February 16, 2024 at 12:00 p.m. EST. If you have questions about your application, please contact us at smallbizgrants@cambridgema.gov or 617-349-7223.

Required Documents for Application

All businesses must provide business tax returns or profit/loss data to show how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively affect their business. For businesses not open in 2019, a COVID-19 related delay to opening the business could help replace sales data.

Other documents you must prepare, are:

  • For brick and mortar businesses: current Cambridge lease or mortgage statement, or landlord invoice for commercial rent owed
  • A copy of employee payroll from November – December 2023
  • Copies of recent marketing expenses, receipts or costs of equipment purchased or planning to purchase by April 2024
  • Copies of inventory bills
  • A list of all other COVID-19 grants/loans you received between 2021 - 2023

Please note - you do not need to provide a Cambridge Business Certificate if you have a Corporation filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

 

Need Help Applying?

Staff are happy to answer questions and assist business owners with filling out the application. Interpretation services are available upon request.

 

Tips and FAQs

I tried to apply online but the application didn't go through or it showed an error even though I answered all the questions.

If you are applying online via your Apple phone, please use a different web browser than Safari. It doesn’t work well with our application form.

 

If the web browser is not the issue, please make sure you have attached invoices and put an answer down for every required question, including the drop-down menu questions, like number of employees.

 

If you continue to have issues, please call us at 617-349-7223 to schedule a time for staff to call you and help fill out the application with you. We can also provide you with a paper/PDF version of the application.

 

Is this grant taxable?

 

Yes. You will receive a 1099-G Form from the city.

My business was not open before the pandemic started. Am I eligible?

If you are a new small business in Cambridge and are not a franchise, you could be eligible if you can show that the pandemic delayed or negatively impacted the opening of your business.

 

When will I get my funds?

Grant funds will be awarded and distributed after the February 16, 2024 deadline. Once a business receives an award notification, it can take up to 4-6 weeks for a grantee to receive funds. Funds will be delayed if program staff do not receive the correct required documents and contract documentation from the business owner.

I haven't received notice that you got my grant application. Can someone tell me?

Business owners can email smallbizgrants@cambridgema.gov for any questions regarding their grant or grant application. Business owners may receive an email before the grant deadline if we are missing anything we need to review their application.

I forgot to attach documents to my application. How do I get them for you?

You can provide us this documentation in three ways:

  1. Send items back via email to smallbizgrants@cambridgema.gov
  2. You may provide photos of your invoices, etc. As long as the photo(s) is clear and your Cambridge business address can be seen.
  3. If you would like to drop off these items to the office, you can do so two ways:

You can either drop off copies to the white mailbox outside Cambridge City Hall Annex (344 Broadway) in an envelope addressed to Tyrone Fells, OR

Send copies of the documents to: 

Cambridge Community Development Department

Attention: Economic Opportunity and Development – Operations Grant

344 Broadway, Floor 3

Cambridge, MA 02139

 

Please make sure to send us or drop off your documents by 12:00 p.m. February 16, 2024.

I received a Restaurant-Nightlife/Small Business Relief Grant. Can I still apply to this one?

 

Yes, but only if this grant is being used for approved expenses and you have not used previous funds received for the same specific expense. For example, if you received the Small Business Relief Grant and used it to pay for June 2022 rent, you can not apply for this grant and use it to cover June 2022 rent again. But, you could apply for a grant to cover a different month’s rent expense.

 

You also must make sure that you have completed all the requirements of the Restaurant-Nightlife Relief Grant and the Small Business Relief Grant prior to applying for this new grant. 

Can this grant be used for future expenses?

No, this grant is for reimbursement of eligible expenses purchased or paid for before or by April 30, 2024 only.

I am a Cambridge resident, but my business is in another city. Can I apply?

No, you must have a business located in Cambridge, MA to be eligible. 

I am a Cambridge based non-profit. Can I apply?

Cambridge non-profits may apply, but non-profits that received a recent non-profit relief grant may not be eligible for this grant. 

Can this grant be used for personal expenses?

No, this grant is only for businesses expenses. 

Who cannot apply to this program?

  • Cambridge residents with businesses located outside the City of Cambridge.
  • Cambridge businesses that started after April 2021. 
  • Cambridge businesses that have outstanding invoices/fees/taxes to the City of Cambridge or the federal government.
  • Cambridge businesses who are not prepared to provide 2019 and 2021 sales or tax data. (Businesses not open in 2019 must be able to provide a statement detailing how COVID-19 impacted the opening of their business.)
  • Applicants who are not in compliance with any federal, state or local laws or regulations, including those pertaining to zoning and licensing.
  • Cannabis businesses. Although cannabis businesses are permitted in the City of Cambridge, the use and possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law for any purpose. As this is a federally-funded program, cannabis businesses are not eligible for the program.
  • Cambridge businesses who have not completed the requirements of the Restaurant and Small Business Relief Grants.

Will an application be reviewed if it is missing documents or information?

No. All documents must be provided before the final deadline of February 16, 2024 to be considered for a grant. 

What can the money be used for?

Brick and Mortar Businesses

Brick and mortar businesses, could receive a grant up to $15,000 to reimburse small businesses for the following expenses from March 3, 2021 until April 30, 2024:

  • Commercial rent/mortgage 
  • Employee wages/payroll
  • New equipment
  • Inventory expenses
  • Marketing expenses
  • Delivery expenses
  • Other businesses relating to operating expenses not included above

Home Based Businesses

Home based businesses could receive a grant up to $7,500 to reimburse small businesses for the following expenses from March 3, 2021 until April 30, 2024.

  • Equipment
  • Marketing expenses
  • Owner/employee payroll
  • Inventory expenses
  • Other business operating expenses not included above

Can I use these funds to pay for any business expense from any time?

 

No. These funds may only be used for approved expenses incurred between March 3, 2021 - April 30, 2024.

I need help applying. Can someone help me?

Yes. Please contact staff at smallbizgrants@cambridgema.gov or leave a message at 617-349-7223 and someone will get back to you about scheduling an appointment. Interpretation and translation services can be made available.

 
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