UPDATE (Feb. 11) -- The Nevada State Senate voted Thursday to approve the extension of a massive grant program aimed at helping struggling business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Assembly Bill 106 would double the funds of the Pandemic Emergency Technical Support (PETS) Grant Program, with an additional $50 million available for small businesses. With AB 106's passage, it marks Nevada's largest small business assistance program in state history.
Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a statement Thursday following the bill's passage:
Throughout this pandemic, Nevada’s small businesses have been hit the hardest and have been struggling every single day. Small businesses are going to be the key to our economic recovery, which I why I asked the Legislature to prioritize passing an additional $50 million for the PETS program.
I cannot thank Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, Speaker Jason Frierson, Chairman Chris Brooks and Chairwoman Maggie Carlton enough for making this critical piece of legislation a priority. This additional funding will ensure that more than 9,000 businesses can be helped by the PETS program, making it the largest small business program in our State’s history.
Providing small businesses with resources they need to grow and thrive isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s an issue that affects all of us. I’m incredibly proud to work with the Legislature to do everything we can to keep business afloat and people employed in this challenging time.
I’m looking forward to singing this bill as soon as possible, so we can get much needed help to small business owners immediately.
Gov. Sisolak plans on signing the bill next week.
ORIGINAL STORY: LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- They are called the lifeblood of Nevada; small businesses, which Governor Steve Sisolak said represents almost half of all jobs in the state. The Governor now wants to help more of them that have been impacted by COVID-19.
On Wednesday he urged support for Assembly Bill 106, which would provide $50 million in grants to small businesses, non-profits and arts and cultural organizations. This would be through the Pandemic Emergency Technical Support Grant Program, or PETS. The Governor, along with other state officials, launched the PETS program, which involved CARES Act money, in October with $50 million dollars. The new bill would add $50 million.
"If approved, the infusion of this additional funding will bring the grand total to $100 million, making this the largest small business grant program in Nevada state history,” said Governor Sisolak.
The Governor added, "Under this program, eligible businesses and non-profits could apply for up to $10,000 in direct grant funding that can be used for a wide range of expenses, much broader than federal funding that’s been restricted to certain expenditures."
Cassandra Barcelo owns Empowered Café with her husband. The business employs and trains people with disabilities. Empowered Cafe received previous PETS money and it helped several employees.
"It really saved our employees and made them have a better Christmas because I didn't have to let them go," said Barcelo.
Officials say if approved, the money would first go to clear out businesses that applied for PETS money in October, but have not received money. State officials say more than 13,000 businesses applied, with more than $148 million in requests for grant money. The state said it’s already helped 4500 businesses so far and could help around 9000 total with the new money. The state said it would reopen the program to new applicants if it receives even more money.
The Vegas Chamber of Commerce said it supports the Governor's bill.
"These grants from the state are helping keep the small businesses doors open... they've been absolutely devastated by this pandemic. A lot of them are closing," said Mary Beth Sewald, CEO of the Vegas Chamber.
Nevada Senate Republicans released statements in support of the measure.
"I support the effort to expand the PETS program; this relief has been needed for many months, action from the legislature is long overdue," said Senator James Settelmeyer. He added, "Thousands of businesses have been devastated, and thousands of Nevadans are still waiting to return to work due to the 25% capacity restriction. I will continue to work with my legislative colleagues to find ways to reopen the Nevada economy as we expand the vaccination effort and COVID-19 positive cases decline."
“I am supportive of the $50 million in funding to help our small businesses who have been impacted by blanket restrictions last spring. I encourage the Governor to loosen restrictions, open them up, and allow people to make a living," said Assembly Republican Leader Dr. Robin Titus.
Late Wednesday the Nevada Assembly passed AB 106 with a majority vote. The bill now heads to the state Senate for approval.