The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed by Congress in March of 2021 provided a significant amount of funding for relief programs to be administered by the states. In Maine, almost $1 billion in funding was received and allocated by the Governor and Maine Legislature in July of 2021. That law, referred to as the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, provides funding for approximately 112 different initiatives in the state. All those programs are aimed at providing support for businesses which have been damaged by the impact of the global pandemic.
MTI is administering several of those funds, including the $20 million Forestry Recovery Initiative (FRI), a $16 million Seafood Dealer and Processor Program (SDPP) – – whose application deadline is today at midnight, and the much anticipated $39.6 million Pandemic Recovery for an Innovative Maine Economy (PRIME) Fund. I refer to the PRIME Fund as much anticipated because we began designing the program last summer shortly after the passage of the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.
As part of PRIME’s program design, we were tasked with making sure the program embodied the core concepts and priorities outlined in the Maine Economic Development Strategy 2020 – 2029 as well as the subsequent Economic Recovery Committee Recommendations. Last August, we started soliciting feedback on our initial program design by conducting 22 listening sessions with businesses and innovation ecosystem partners. Many of you reading this blog played a pivotal role in those listening sessions. We eventually summarized the major feedback themes and incorporated them into the program design.
In the fall, the State of Maine developed a uniform review process for vetting all the programs under the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to ensure compliance with all the federal guidelines associated with the American Rescue Plan Act. That thorough evaluation led to further tweaks and modifications to the program.
Last week, the Governor announced the launch of Phase I of the PRIME Fund and noted it is specifically targeted at technology businesses that suffered adverse impacts from the global pandemic. The PRIME Fund requires that the business be engaged in one of the state’s seven targeted technology sectors, have 250 employees or fewer, and have a solid plan to use innovation to recover and become stronger, more resilient entities. Applicants need to be Maine-based businesses with a significant employment presence here and must have access to available matching funds equivalent to their funding request.
We anticipate that PRIME Fund grant awards will range from $49,000 – $400,000. Eligible PRIME Fund expenses may include, but are not limited to, payroll costs and expenses for existing or new hires, rent or mortgage payments for business facilities (unless otherwise waived by lessor/lender), utility payments, purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) required by the business, business-related equipment purchases, start-up costs for new programs and/or new markets which may require some initial investment, and replenishing inventory or other necessary re-opening and/or operating expenses.
MTI spent a great deal of time developing a program and application process that is streamlined and straightforward. We have also been very intentional about our outreach and marketing to make certain that we maximize interest and participation in the program. There is a wealth of information on MTI’s website, including a short video tutorial that takes you through every step of the application process, a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ), a link to weekly Zoom sessions where applicants can engage in a dialogue with MTI staff, as well as other detailed and relevant information.
We will be accepting PRIME Fund Phase I proposals until May 24th and look forward to using this significant funding to strengthen Maine’s tech-enabled businesses and bolster our economy. Get your application in today!
And, enjoy the last few days of April.