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Anne Arundel County businesses could receive up to $10,000 in new grant to boost social media platforms and online advertising ahead of holiday season

Small businesses and nonprofits in Anne Arundel County can apply for a new federally funded grant for up to $10,000 to use toward online marketing, e-commerce and other digital services starting Sept. 20.

The “Digital Services Grant” uses $500,000 in federal funding from the American Recovery Act to help brick-and-mortar businesses purchase and use digital tools to bolster their online presence after in-person services have been hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Businesses that were able to pivot online during the beginning of the pandemic when stores shuttered quickly did so. But for businesses that don’t have a virtual option, such as gyms and personal beauty services that depend on customers receiving or buying a service in-person, those digital alternatives weren’t as available.

The grant, managed by the county Economic Development Corporation, can be used in a variety of ways that are most helpful to the business.

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Rosa Cruz, vice president of communications for the Economic Development Corporation, said the grant is geared toward that segment of the business community that moved to a virtual setting in hopes of helping owners engage with customers to promote themselves to potential customers now that the coronavirus restrictions on them have mostly lifted.

“I think it’s important these particular small businesses have the platforms and the communication channels that they’re going to need to be able to compete during the holiday season,” Cruz said.

Grant money can be used on digital tools such as subscription, email and mobile marketing platforms, creating an online database of customers’ contacts to promote sales or a customer rewards/loyalty system, along with boosting e-commerce capability, such as a website where customers can order online. The grant can also be used for social media advertising opportunities.

“While many programs have provided much-needed direct relief to help small businesses and nonprofits survive the pandemic, the Digital Services Grant is an especially powerful one because it’s focused on strengthening them for the future,” Ben Birge, CEO of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, said in a statement.

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Eligible applicants include businesses or nonprofit organizations with two to 20 employees. Businesses must have been established and operating prior to March 9, 2020 and have a storefront or building in Anne Arundel County. Applicants must operate in the following sectors:

  • Retail (Traders License)
  • Beauty and health personal services (Health License)
  • Adult and children’s activity centers such as gyms, dance, yoga and martial arts studios, arts and crafts businesses (Certificate of Use)
  • Nonprofit organization (A 2019 IRS 990 form)

An applicant will also be required to submit:

  • a completed and signed W-9 form
  • a budget outlining a proposed use of the grant

For more information on the program and how to apply, visit the Digital Services Relief Grant Program page. Applications will go live on Monday, Sept. 20 at 9 a.m. All applications must be submitted via an online portal by 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1.

For additional information, inquiries can be sent to grants@aaedc.org.

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