BISMARCK - The North Dakota Department of Commerce is encouraging the state’s businesses to get ready to apply for grants that will help them pay the costs of making their businesses safer during the COVID-19 pandemic and boost shaken consumer confidence.

On Thursday, July 30, Commerce Commissioner Michelle Kommer hosted an online presentation covering the rules and application process for the Economic Resiliency Grant program.

“You understand better than anyone the need to recapture the market and consumers before the temporary solutions, like staying home, shopping less, traveling less, dining out less, become the preferred solution,” Kommer told attendees.

Taking applications for the program has been delayed. (It was to kick off July 31.) Kommer didn’t have a new starting date but said the launch will be announced when ready. When it does start, she expects thousands of applications "in a very short amount of time."

Meanwhile, she encouraged business people to gather their information and keep tabs on the ndresponse.gov website, and the Commerce Department’s social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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The program is funded with $69 million approved by the Legislature’s Budget Section in late June.

Businesses that operate in North Dakota are eligible for up to $50,000 to pay for improvements to reduce the spread of COVID-19, keep consumers safe and inspire them “to return to the market safely,” Kommer said. Businesses with more than one location in the state are eligible for up to $100,000.

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There are a great number of rules determining the eligibility for the program and allowable expenses. Kommer encouraged applicants to read through the rules and frequently asked questions sections available through program links on the Department of Commerce or ndresponse.gov websites. A copy of Thursday’s presentation is also available on the ERG section of the ndresponse.gov webpage.

Kommer warned that failure to follow the rules of the first-come, first-served program could have an applicant’s application turned away, effectively putting that applicant at “the back of the line.” She said the grant application process includes an audit of submitted expenses.

Kommer said expenses not covered by the ERG may possibly be covered by the Paycheck Protection Program, which is taking applications through Aug. 8.

Any improvements made after March 27 can be funded by the grant, Kommer said, but proof of those expenses must be available. She added the grant process includes an audit of expenses after awards are made.