Florida International University

Small business owners in Liberty City, Overtown, Little Haiti and elsewhere in Miami-Dade Commission District 3 have until Tuesday, Jan. 25, to obtain application forms for county grants of up to $10,000.

Miami-Dade County’s “Mom and Pop Small Business Grant Program” is returning for its 13th year of helping small businesses, defined as businesses with fewer than seven full-time employees or up to 14 part-time employees.

“The money is usually used on technology improvements,” said Leroy Jones, executive director of Neighbors and Neighbors Association, the organization in charge of distributing the grants, citing the need to upgrade computers as an example. “These systems change daily.”

Each of Miami-Dade’s 13 districts will receive $90,000 to hand out, for a total of $1.17 million county-wide. Since the program began, it has awarded more than $10 million to more than 5,000 businesses.

Last year, Jones estimates, the program received more than 10,000 applications, from which about 600 were selected for the cash. Grant amounts vary by city commission district.

Jones said the economy has forced the program to contract for the second year in a row and it now offers only about half of what there was to give out in better times. But, in a slowly recovering economy, the grants may provide a needed kick start, he said.

“These grants have a trickle-down,” Jones said. “They use the money to do things like advertise and purchase supplies and that helps other businesses too.”

Interested business owners should check with their county commissioner’s office or Web site as guidelines and deadlines may vary.

In District 3, applications will be distributed until Jan. 25 and accepted until Feb. 8. Successful applicants are notified within a month and then must take part in a process that includes mandatory workshops and technical assistance.

Ronnie Figueroa may be reached at rfigu003@fiu.edu.