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HELENA, Mont. — Applications are now open for a $320,000 grant program aimed at helping Native American entrepreneurs in Montana to launch or scale small businesses. 

The state’s Indian Country Programs started accepting applications on Aug. 1 for the fiscal year 2021 Indian Equity Fund small business grant program. The application period runs through Sept. 30, 2020. 

Eligible applicants must belong to one of the eight federally recognized American Indian tribes based in Montana and provide tribal enrollment documentation. 

Small businesses can qualify for $7,000 to $14,000 in grant funding, which requires a “committed and documented” dollar-for-dollar cash or in-kind match. The match can include cash or loan proceeds, as well as inventory, supplies or other items such as vehicles that are part of the business, according to the state’s application guidelines

The funding can be used to purchase land, building and equipment; to buy assets including furnishings, equipment and technology; or to fund working capital for business operations. 

Successful applicants must demonstrate “how the funding will support growth in their business either through the development of a new project or with the existing business strategy,” according to the state’s website. 

The funding cannot be used to support activities completed prior to the application, nor can it be used to support activities that are already receiving funding through another funding program, unless the grant is used to fully fund the project. 

Applications will be judged on the quality of the narrative, clarity of purpose, the business experience of the applicant, completeness of financial projections and demonstration of financial need. The state plans to review the applications in October and November and notify applicants about funding decisions by the end of the year. The Montana Department of Commerce administers the competitive application process. 

The state is offering application assistance via the Native American Business Advisor network and the state offices of the Small Business Development Center. 

The 2020 round of the Small Business Grant program, announced in early January, awarded the full $320,000 available to 25 Native-owned businesses across the state. Previous winners spanned all eight tribes based in Montana and included tourism-related businesses, retail, services, construction and restaurants. 

“Encouraging the growth of Native American-owned and operated businesses boosts not only the businesses themselves, but also helps strengthen local economies in the communities they operate in,” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement at the time. “Indian Equity Fund dollars are an important investment in the future of businesses and tribal communities across Montana.”

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