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City of Cambridge Small Business COVID-19 Grant Assistance 

Since March 2020, the City of Cambridge provided direct relief and other assistance programs to help our small business community during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The programs are funded through several federal and local funds. As of August 2022, the City has provided over $6.6 million in direct relief programs. Please continue to check this page for updates.

Check out the City’s small business program page for other grants and resources.

Current COVID-19 Business Grants

Previous City of Cambridge COVID-19 Business Grants

American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Grants:

CDBG, CDBG-CARES Act, Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) Grants & Loan Programs:


City of Cambridge Small Business Assistance Programs

The City of Cambridge Relief, Recovery, and Winter Grants Programs, the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund for small businesses, and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) Zero-Interest Loan program is distributing nearly $4.2 Million to Cambridge small businesses financially impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis.

View Small Business Dashboard

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of business outreach does the City do for these grants?

At the beginning of the pandemic (March-April 2020), outreach was limited due to mandated business closures. During that time period, outreach was conducted via business associations (e.g. Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Cambridge Local First, East Cambridge Business Association, Harvard Square Business Association, Kendall Square Association), city’s website, and daily COVID-19 newsletters, Economic Opportunity and Development Division’s e-newsletter list, and through individual emails to business owners, including the business owners listed in the Business Diversity Directory. 

As the city began reopening, additional outreach is conducted:

  • Delivered informational flyers door to door (provided in six different languages)
  • Sent mailers to brick-and-mortar business owners in CDBG-eligible areas (for CDBG-CARES Act grants only), and direct calls.
  • Drop off applications to businesses
  • Provide phone and in-person assistance for business owners who needed help with the grant applications and support documentation
  • Sent emails to City licensed businesses on programs

What did businesses spend the grant funds on?

Businesses were able to use the grants and loans on items such as rent, payroll, personal protective equipment (PPE), utilities, inventory, digital resources, marketing, and equipment needed to survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, check out the Small Business Dashboard.

What is the difference between CDBG-CARES Act and ARPA Funding?

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act was a $2.2 trillion economic bill passed by the U.S. Congress and in March 2020 in response to the economic fallout of the COVID disease.

The City received Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-CARES Act funding and allocated a part of it to business relief programs. CDBG-CARES Act guidelines state that we can only offer this funding to federally eligible Cambridge business owners. CBDG eligibility guidelines must assist residents and businesses in low-moderate income areas or low-moderate income micro-enterprises.
Learn more about Economic Development CDBG guidelines.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) is delivering $350 billion for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency and bring back jobs. The funds provide an infusion of resources to help turn the tide on the pandemic and  address its fallout. Learn more about the City's ARPA funding. 

Business owners who can show a loss of sales or revenue between 2020 and 2021 (versus pre-pandemic levels) may be eligible for ARPA funding. ARPA grants are awarded based on the financial impact experienced by COVID-19. For example, a business wanting to use grant funds for something not related to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic or is disproportionate to the type or extent of the impact would not be eligible. 

Why did a business not get a grant?

Businesses who may have applied for a city grant but did not receive a grant most likely did not receive a grant because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • Business was not eligible under grant or loan guidelines
  • Business backed out due to receiving funding from other programs such as Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation Small Business Grants
  • Grant was oversubscribed and the business owner scored lower in criteria points
  • Business was not able to provide documentation needed (such as a lease or taxes) to prove need and eligibility for the grant
  • After city staff assistance, business did not complete the application by the deadline(s)
  • Under CDBG/CDBG-CARES Act, businesses were only able to receive up to six (6) months of funding and the City already provided the maximum amount allowed in a previous round
  • The business was not able to show that their grant request would be used to assist with the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. ARPA awards must be funded based on impact experienced by COVID-19. For example, using a grant for a business expense not related to recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or something that is grossly disproportionate to extent of the negative impact would not be eligible.

Could a business apply to more than one City grant and/or loan program?

Yes, a business owner could apply to multiple CDBG-CARES ACT and/or ARPA grant programs and apply for the MDRF/CRA Loan program as long as there is/was no duplication of benefits. Duplication of benefits means that a business owner did not use two different grants for the same business expense. Other grants considered during duplication of benefits review included federal and state grants a business owner received during the application process. For federal funded grants, business owners also had to show they used the previous round of funds correctly before they were eligible for the next round. 

In order to ensure that as many Cambridge businesses owners received grants, all grant rounds gave extra criteria points to businesses who did not receive a city grant in a previous round.


Which Cambridge businesses received a grant(s)?

Are these grants taxable?

CDBG-CARES Act and ARPA Grants are considered taxable income. Business owners receive a 1099-G from the City.
Page was posted on 3/18/2020 6:52 PM
Page was last modified on 5/30/2024 10:56 AM
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