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County extends deadline for small business grants

Monroe County has extended the deadline for applications for Fast Forward Monroe 2.0 to Oct. 29, 2021.

Fast Forward Monroe 2.0 is a program of grants for small businesses that is funded with an additional $20 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money, which must be distributed by the end of this year.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy and it’s critical we support them as we continue to deal with the ongoing pandemic,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello in a statement. “That’s why I launched the Fast Forward Monroe Small Business Grant Program last year. Through no fault of their own, many small businesses have not yet fully recovered from COVID-related economic hardships. Fast Forward 2.0 helps ensure our small businesses have the support they need to weather these uncertain times. I’d like to thank Congressman Joe Morelle, Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for their help in securing CARES Act funding for this program.”

Since the second phase of Fast Forward Monroe launched on Sept. 8, 921 small businesses have applied for help. Money will be disbursed to eligible businesses by the end of the year.

Monroe County collaborated with community organizations including the Urban League of Rochester, PathStone Enterprise Center and the Ibero-American Action League to make the program more accessible by providing business owners with comprehensive application help and support, including assistance for limited English proficient individuals.

The county Department of Planning and Development hired additional employees to process applications.

The initial Fast Forward program, launched in October 2020, helped more than 1,500 local small businesses survive the pandemic with $22 million of funds from the CARES Act.

Eligible businesses can receive grants of either $10,000, $15,000 or $20,000 depending on the number of full-time employees. The money can be used for rent, payroll, operating expenditures or COVID-related business expenses and other funding shortfalls.

Businesses which received funds in the first round of the program are still eligible to receive funds through Fast Forward Monroe 2.0. Businesses that did not receive funding in the first version of the program will be given priority under Fast Forward 2.0.

To apply, visit

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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County awards 1,315 Fast Forward small business grants

More than 2,000 applications were submitted for Fast Forward Monroe Small Business Grants and 1,315 were approved, county officials said last week.

The $17 million program, announced in October, was designed to support local small businesses affected by the pandemic. It was a direct response to a countywide Fast Forward Monroe business survey undertaken in summer 2020 and provides financial assistance to small businesses with two to 50 full-time employees in the personal services industry.

The program prioritized businesses that had not yet received COVID-related aid and assisting women and minority-owned businesses.

“The COVID-19 crisis has had a huge impact on our small local businesses, and our women and minority-owned businesses were hit especially hard,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “Using federal CARES Act dollars, Fast Forward Monroe has been able to provide flexible, direct relief to help hundreds of our community’s struggling business owners and their employees, with an emphasis on those businesses disproportionately affected by the pandemic. I am committed to doing what we can to equitably help our businesses bridge these difficult times.”

Some 49 percent of all businesses receiving grants were in low or moderate-income ZIP codes. Roughly 44 percent of approved applications were from women-owned businesses and one-quarter were from minority-owned businesses. Fourteen percent were from businesses that were both women and minority-owned.

“D&L Groceries is thankful for the Fast Forward grant. It was very helpful at a time of incredible need,” said the store’s Linford Hamilton. “The funds were used to keep our staff working on important projects such as the 211 Senior Citizen Meals Program. In addition, D&L used the funds to help implement COVID-19 safety procedures, enabling an open floor plan and installing safety fixtures.”

Bello has authorized up to an additional $4 million to continue the Fast Forward Monroe grant program. The funding will help businesses that did not receive assistance through the first round of the grant program.

“Our retail stores, restaurants and service providers are the lifeblood of Monroe County neighborhoods and households and were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to CARES Act funding, the Fast Forward Monroe grant program was one important way to help those entrepreneurs and their families endure the struggle,” said Ana Liss, director of Monroe County Planning and Development. “Monroe County staff worked collaboratively across many departments to get this program off the ground. While we know that the road to recovery will be a long one, we are committed to supporting our small businesses in every way possible as restrictions are lifted.”

Some 295, or 22 percent, of grant recipients were in the restaurant and foodservice industry, while 261, or 20 percent, listed their sector as “other.” More than 150 grantees were spas, salons and similar businesses, while 126 were in retail and consumer goods.

Some 120 of the businesses were in the 14607 ZIP code, with a total of 429 businesses in the city of Rochester.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer