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BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana will start accepting applications July 28 from small businesses seeking up to $15,000 grants to help with coronavirus expenses, Treasurer John Schroder announced Wednesday.

The Republican state treasurer said he will use three contractors to help run the website portal for applications. They are to review and approve grant recipients and market the program, which will hand out at least $260 million in grants.

“I expect once somebody qualifies, the check goes out pretty quickly, within days,” Schroder said.

Louisiana lawmakers created the program to help businesses that had to stop operating or otherwise incurred costs because of the virus outbreak. More than 450,000 businesses are estimated to be eligible — far more than the state can afford to give grants.

“Honestly, it could be sucked up in the first 21 days,” Schroder said of the money.

Under rules enacted by lawmakers, grants for the first 21 days will only be available to businesses that didn’t receive other federal aid via the Paycheck Protection Program or a U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan — and that didn’t receive insurance for interruptions to their business. Grants are capped at no more than $15,000.

To be eligible, businesses have to be located in Louisiana. They can’t have had more than 50 full-time workers as of March 1, before Louisiana saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19. And they can’t be a subsidiary of or owned by a larger company with more than 50 full-time employees.

Lawmakers set aside $275 million for the small business grant program, with $40 million guaranteed to be spent on grants to assist minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses. The dollars come from $1.8 billion in direct congressional relief that Louisiana received to respond to the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus.

Up to $15 million of the grant program money can be used for administrative costs, but Schroder said he doesn’t expect to use that full amount on contacts and operational expenses. The treasurer’s office said the contracts’ costs won’t exceed $7.2 million.

The treasurer hired accounting firm Postlethwaite and Netterville to manage much of the program, receiving and analyzing applications, help small businesses apply for grants and run a customer call center. Metairie-based MLCworks will do digital marketing and advertising. An existing contractor that runs a website for the treasurer will handle the online portal for applications.

Schroder snubbed a contractor proposal submitted by tax lawyer Jason DeCuir and former state Rep. Joel Robideaux, who led a legislative task force that backed the small business grant program. DeCuir and Robideaux received criticism for seeking the work because they were involved in helping to create the program.

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