Podcast: Shop In Utah, Safe In Utah and the Commercial Rental Assistance Program

Pete CodellaBusiness Elevated Podcast


Business Elevated Podcast (Episode 36)

This podcast series features business and government leaders discussing what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. This episode includes a conversation between Kori Ann Edwards, managing director of operations at the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), and Dane Ishihara, program manager over the GOED grant programs.

The Business Elevated podcast is also available on Apple PodcastsSpotify and Stitcher.



Welcome to the Business Elevated Podcast, where we discuss what it’s like to live and work in the great state of Utah. Did you know Utah is frequently ranked the best state for business by Forbes? This podcast is a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Thanks for joining the conversation.


Kori Ann Edwards
Dane Ishihara

Kori Ann Edwards: (0:20) Good morning. Welcome to the Business Elevated podcast. I’m Kori Ann Edwards and I’m the managing director of operations at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development also known as GOED. Today, I’m with Dane Ishihara, the program manager over our grant programs that we’ll be talking to you today about Shop In Utah, Safe In Utah and ComRent. Thank you for joining me. How are you doing today? 

Dane Ishihara: (0:47) I’m doing well, considering the circumstances, and I’m excited to discuss the program so we can assist the businesses in Utah. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (0:53) Thank you. The Utah Legislature in the fifth special session, that was just this past June, passed House Bill 5010. That bill created several programs available to Utah businesses and Dane and I will be talking to you about those today.

The first one that we have is Shop In Utah. Just for those of you out there, we are doing a podcast and a webinar, so I’m going to pull up the slides that we can walk through, and then we’ll walk the audience through those for the other programs. 

The first program is Shop In Utah and it is a $25 million program. To qualify for this grant, businesses must offer a discount or other offers with an estimated value to their consumers. We’ll go into the details about that. The exciting thing about this program is it’s designed for our small businesses. So, 75% of the grant funds must go to Utah small businesses.

In this situation, a Utah small business is designed to be a company with 250 or fewer full-time employees. Again, we’ll talk more about that. The second one we’re calling Safe In Utah. It is a $5 million program that provides grants to businesses to improve workplace safety for workers and customers during the COVID pandemic. It includes measures such as PPE purchases, workplace redesign, signage and technology solutions that allow for distance working.

This is also for a small business set aside with the same definitions. This one is a little interesting. You can either put forward receipts, whether you’ve already spent the money and get reimbursement for that, or if you still need to spend the money to improve your workspace and allow for social distancing. You can get up to a hundred dollars per full-time equivalent.

We’ll talk more about that one as well. The final one is already an active program. We’ve done a couple of podcasts on this before, but it went through some revamping in the fifth special session and is an improved program offering greater opportunities for our Utah businesses. It is our Commercial Rental Assistance Program, also known as ComRent. It is a $40 million program. As of today, it still has about $30 million left available to our Utah businesses. This provides rental relief to businesses that lost revenue as a result of COVID-19. Grant awards are based on revenue, percentage losses and actual rental expenses.

We’ll deep dive into each of these for you. Dane, do you want to go ahead and start with Shop In Utah? 

Dane Ishihara: (3:40) Thanks, Kori Ann. It is important to note that Shop In Utah program applications are accepted beginning July 27, 2020, at 9 a.m. (MDT). As Kori Ann mentioned, the Shop In Utah grant program is designed for businesses to offer an incentive, to entice their customers. The incentive amount must equal at aggregate 50% of the grant award. Easier said is if a recipient receives a $10,000 grant, $5,000 of that grant award must go towards the customer incentive. There are two ways to calculate the grant award. It’s capped at 50,000 per eligible entity, or the actual business entities revenue decline. The revenue decline is calculated for a business entity that began operating before July 1st, 2019. The sum of revenue from March through June 2019, compared to the sum of revenue for March through June 2020. For a business entity that began operating on or after July 1st, 2019, the business entity’s revenue for February 2020 multiplied by four and compared to the sum of revenue for March through June 2020.

As Kori Ann mentioned, 75% of the awards must go to businesses with less than 250 full-time equivalent employees.

We’ll run through some eligibility questions that an applicant will have to respond to. These are some of the questions. Did your business experience a revenue decline due to the public emergency related to COVID-19? Was your business in operation on March 1st, 2020? Has your business received funding from the COVID-19 cultural assistance grant program? Does your business have 250 or fewer employees? Does your business have employees that are physically located in Utah? If awarded a grant, do you agree to provide a financial incentive that equals or exceeds 50% of the award or grant amount of award? Do you acknowledge that your business is required to keep records of the discounted goods and or services, and the records may be subject to audit? An explanation of how the use of funds will benefit the state economy.

There will also be some documentation required for the Shop In Utah program. They are a completed and signed W-9, a profit loss statement for March through June 2019, or February 2020, based on if your company was operating before July 1, 2019. That’s how we’ll verify the revenue loss. We’ll also need the profit and loss for March through June 2020, and a copy of the plan, including a budget for offering the financial incentive to customers and in the budget.

We also need to have an understanding of the timeline that the funds will be disbursed related to the incentive program. Here’s also a crucial part of this program is any business that receives CARES act money has to have spent that money prior to December 30th, 2020. If awarded, the business entity has to provide the incentive program prior to December 30th, 2020, but the activity can take place up through June 30th of 2021.

Kori Ann, do you want to maybe add some additional information in that area. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (6:45) Yes. Thank you so much, Dane. We went through all the technical pieces of this grant. This is a little bit more of a complicated one than a lot. A really quick recap on what this Shop In Utah grant means is businesses are eligible up to $50,000. We’re going to look at March through July revenues in 2019, or sorry, March through June revenues and compare in 2019 and compare them through March through June revenues in 2020. That last difference will determine the eligibility.

If you are a company that was not in operations before July 1 and do not have a revenue comparison for 2019, we will take your February 2020 revenue projections, times them by four months then compare them to the four months of March through June to determine the loss. So again, you’ll be eligible for a grant amount of up to $50,000.

Let’s say you’re eligible for $50,000. With that money, you have to agree to provide an incentive or discount to your consumer at 50% of that money. Or, if you were eligible for $50,000, $25,000 of that can go to your operating expenses to help your business with your loss.

The other $25,000 would need to go to the incentive that you’re offering to your customers. Hope that clarifies that a little bit. A good example of this would be if you’re an outfitter, maybe you’re a fly-fishing guide and you offer a buy one, get one free. Book a float trip and you get to bring a friend for free, so to speak.

The outfitter would offer that benefit and advertise for it. The booking and the payment for that benefit or that incentive would need to be honored before December 30, 2020, even though maybe the consumer doesn’t redeem it and tell some time next year. On or before June 30th.

Still a little complicated, but hopefully that gives you some clarification’s Dane. Anything I missed on that? 

Dane Ishihara: (9:06) No, I think that was a great summary. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (9:07) We will now go into the Safe In Utah program. Dane, can you talk to us a little bit about that program? 

Dane Ishihara: (9:13) Thanks, Kori Ann. The important date for the Safe In Utah program will begin accepting applications on July 20, 2020, at 9 a.m. (MDT).

This program is designed for businesses to improve workplace safety for their workers and customers through supporting purchases of PPE for the workplace, redesigned signage and technology solutions that allow for distance working. This program is capped at $50,000 per eligible applicant as well. How the calculation for this program is determined is the lesser of the actual expenses for the COVID-19 safety equipment or $100 per full-time employee.

Again, 75% of the awards must go to small businesses of 250 full-time equivalent employees or less. Part of this application process is outlining what equipment was bought and describing how the public health and safety guidelines and safety protocols will be followed.

Documentation requirements for Safe In Utah will be the complete and signed W-9. Also evidence of the expenses that have occurred, or the anticipated cost of the expenses. The program eligibility questions include: Did your business experience a revenue decline due to the public emergency related to COVID-19? Was your business and operation on March 1st, 2020? Does your business have 250 or fewer full-time employees? Does your business have employees that are physically located in Utah? Has your business incurred COVID-19 expenses, or if awarded the grant, do you agree that you will purchase COVID-19 related expenses? Do you acknowledge that your business may be subject to audit? This program is much more straightforward than the Shop In Utah program. We’re looking at actual expenses or anticipated expenses and the number of employees. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (11:08) Thanks, Dane. A couple of questions for both the Shop In Utah and Safe In Utah are: How do I determine whether or not I have 250 or fewer full-time employees? What’s the timeline that I need to compare to in filling out the application? 

Dane Ishihara: (11:23) That’s a great question. It does apply to both programs. We’re looking at the time of application the number of full-time employees at being 250 or less to determine if the business qualifies as a small business under the requirement. It’s at the time of application.

We’re also looking at full-time equivalent employees. That means someone working 40 hours or more for that business. That’s what we’re looking at. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (11:47) Will my part-time employees not count towards my 250 full-time employees? Is that correct? 

Dane Ishihara: (11:57) That is correct. Those individuals would not count towards the full-time employee number. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (12:02) Thank you. Are Shop In Utah and Safe In Utah targeted towards a certain industry or a certain type of business in Utah? Can anyone apply? 

Dane Ishihara: (12:13) Basically any business entity can apply. This includes nonprofits and sole proprietors.

Kori Ann Edwards: (12:20) Great. All of you dentist or professional services out can participate. I really like how these programs are designed for pretty much any business in Utah that meets these eligibility requirements.

A very exciting opportunity for our Utah businesses. Thank you. Just to recap, Shop In Utah opens July 27th at 9:00 a.m. We’ll talk to you about where to go for those applications. Safe In Utah opens this Monday, July 20th at 9:00 a.m. Both of those are mountain time.

The third program we’ll talk to you about today is the Commercial Rental Assistance Program, otherwise known as ComRent. It is currently open now. Dane, can you talk to us a little bit? We’ve had it opened before I know the legislative session made some changes to it.

If you could just give us a recap as to what the program currently looks like today. Maybe how that compared to the previous program. 

Dane Ishihara: (13:32) Thanks, Kori Ann. The purpose behind the ComRent program is to provide rental relief in the form of grants to Utah small businesses who lost revenue due to measures taken to minimize the public’s exposure to COVID-19. To be eligible for the program, the business must have a currently sound commercial property in the state of Utah, claim Utah as their principal place of business, have fewer than 100 full-time employees and demonstrate at least a 30% loss of gross monthly revenue after March 1, 2020. They can’t have received funds from the COVID-19 agricultural operations grant program.

An overview of the documentation related to the ComRent program are: signed W-9, current lease or rental agreement, documentation of the most recent lease rental payment, profit loss statement for the four week period of revenue loss baseline and a profit loss statement for the four week period of revenue loss.

For those times of the revenue loss, we’re looking at any four week time period before March 1st, 2020, and the four week time period after March 1, 2020. Kori Ann mentioned we restructured the program after working with stakeholders in the legislature.

The original revenue lost adjustments were 50% and 70%. Those were adjusted to 30% and 45%. There was also a PPP award adjustment that was removed from the program. The program award was increased from two months of rent from one month of rent. We eliminated a lot of the documentation requirements that were unnecessary.

The maximum award amount was raised to $15,000 from $10,000. For entities that have multiple locations, that maximum award actually goes up to $30,000, with $5,000 per location. The requirement used to be 100 employees, was raised to 100 full-time employees. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (15:33) That’s really great. I know several companies were eligible for the initial program. They went in and applied and got a check for that. Now, we’ve got these new changes and different losses. For example, maybe they got their reduction because they received a PPP award from the federal government. That’s now taken away in this requirement.

Dane, for those that did receive early ComRent money, what happens now with these changes? 

Dane Ishihara: (16:02) With the changes, we’ve recalculated the award amount and issue checks to those companies that were awarded the first round. They should be made whole under the new requirements. They should have received a check by now. Or, within the next week, they should be receiving a check.

Kori Ann Edwards: (16:17) So that’s super great. Always great to get a check in the mail. Or, an additional check in the mail. For those of you that got in at the early stages of it, that’s great. Again, it’s a $40 million program. So far, about $30 million is left still. 

Still, lots of money here and the percentage of losses has been reduced. It’s now 30% and 45%, versus 50% and 70%. Your losses don’t need to be as extreme as before. I encourage you to relook at that. Okay. Before, if you got the PPP money, instead of being eligible for $10,000 you were only eligible for $5,000, that’s been removed.

That is no longer something that we need to look at under the program. Instead of one month’s rent, it’s now two months’ rent. A much bigger opportunity there. And, instead of the max amount being $10,000, it’s now $15,000. If you’re a company and entity with multiple locations across the state, the maximum award has been increased to $30,000, with a cap of $5,000 per location per month.

A single location could get $10,000 for the two months. A  lot of good opportunities there. How do I apply is kind of the next question. The most important thing to get out of this podcast is to go to business.utah.gov/coronavirus. I’ll repeat that again: business.utah.gov/coronavirus.

There’s a banner right there that we’ll talk about all these programs. It will give you all these details that we just talked about like what the eligibility is and the documentation you need to submit. At the bottom of that piece is the apply now button.

When the applications go live, you’ll see that and you can go in and start applying. Right now the current application is active. You can go in today and start applying. Again, just a reminder that Safe In Utah, which is the social distancing PPE purchases grant that will go live Monday, July 20th at 9:00 a.m. The Shop In Utah, which is the consumer incentive benefit package that will go live on July 27th at 9:00 a.m.

Dane, will you talk to us a little bit about the application process that a business will go through when they click the apply now button. 

Dane Ishihara: (18:50) Yes, this is applicable to all three programs we’ve discussed.

Applications are accepted on a first come first serve basis until funds are exhausted. That first come first serve basis, it’s important to note that it is calculated on a complete application. I’ll walk through the process. That’ll make a little bit more sense in a minute. The first step is to set up a user account.

If you’ve not already applied for a GOED incentive, returning users can use the same account that’s already been set up. If you’re going through the setting up an account process, you’ll receive an email to proceed with the full application. You’ll fill in the application and upload the required documentation. PDF format is preferred when you submit your application. Once the application is submitted, it will undergo a review for eligibility and award amount, and the application will be approved. If you are an approved awardee, an email will be sent out. A check will be issued within 48 hours, usually within the same day.

If rejected, an email is sent and the application is identified as a draft with an explanation of the missing information documentation. If you get the reject email, you’ll want to respond quickly with the documentation that was required. That puts you back into the queue of the first come first serve I was discussing a little bit ago.

Kori Ann Edwards: (20:05) Just to recap, this money is first-come, first-serve. You don’t want to delay if you’re interested in applying for this. Also, if you applied for other applications like this,  that GOED has been offering during the pandemic, and you’ve already got an account, you don’t have to request a new account.

You can use that same user account number and password that you had already set up. That will save you a step there. If you haven’t got a user account, go in and get that. You’ll get that back to you in an email form. I know a lot of people sometimes had it go to their junk mail. They come to you within 24 hours. If you haven’t seen anything, check your junk mail account to make sure that it’s not sitting in there waiting for you. If you’ve already got ComRent money, and you’re now applying for Shop In Utah or Safe In Utah, you can use that same account. If you applied for the original Utah Leads Together Bridge Loan, you’ve got an account there.

Various things where you may already have an account. If not, go ahead and set one up. As Dane said, it is super important to upload all of your documentation. We’ll next go through some common mistakes. What I really love about this program, and what I’m super excited about, is once you’re deemed eligible, a check goes into the mail to you within 48 hours. You really get this money quickly without a lot of delays. I appreciate everything the state is doing to get that money to you as quickly as possible. 

Dane, would you mind going through some common application mistakes we’ve typically seen? 

Dane Ishihara: (21:47) Yes, this is helpful for our side and the applicants as well.

One common mistake is a failure to provide the required documentation. If a document is not available, you should attach something stating why you could not access that document. If it’s a profit and loss for a revenue calculation, or a lease agreement for the ComRent program, at least document why you’re not attaching that required information. The document format, please name your documents appropriately so we can find what we’re looking for. The maximum size is 5 megabytes for each document. Make sure your documents are not password protected. A PDF format is preferred. We can also accept excel or word documents. Any Mac-based formats are usually not acceptable and will not come through. Make sure the W-9 you’re submitting is signed with the correct address. The address should match the address of the company and the application. Know your business structure when you’re applying. If you have DBAs, we have a lot of applicants that use business entities interchangeably. We can’t follow the trail through the documentation. When we’re reviewing the application, we verify your gross revenue baseline and gross revenue. During the period of loss, we’re seeing a lot of mistakes made on gross revenue where net income, net revenue is being used.

We can adjust those calculations, but double-check what you’re submitting. Carefully read the questions as they may determine your eligibility. Don’t just go through and mark yes or no. On each application question, read them in detail and answer the questions adequately.

I wanted to reiterate what Kori Ann said to check your junk mail. If we’re sending communication or email back and forth, they can end up in that location. If you’ve applied for multiple grant programs with GOED, you may need to refresh or delete your cookies within your browser. The application will pop back up and the apply now button will show.  I think that highlights some of the mistakes Kori Ann. 

Kori Ann Edwards: (23:51) Great. Those are good things to know. I know a lot of companies go by a DBA. They’ll go in and fill out their application with their DBA name, but all of their paperwork that is uploaded goes by a more formal name or a parent entity.

The application name doesn’t match the documents and then we have to go back. We have to ask more questions and get additional information from you. Just make sure your application matches the whole way. We’ve got a lot of requirements from the CARES Act money that we need to follow to make sure we’re in line with the federal guidelines. Additionally, we have to make sure we follow state guidelines to verify you are a Utah company and eligible. Make sure we can see that you are a business. We want to make sure that this money stays in Utah. We’re really checking to make sure that we meet those needs and get that money to our awesome Utah businesses.

I appreciate you working with us to make it a quick and easy process. If there is missing data, we will go back to you with questions. As Dane said since this is a first come first serve basis. If we have to go back and you have to resubmit data, that puts you back in the bottom line. You kind of lose your place in line. You want to make sure that everything is uploaded correctly. 

I wanted to just recap the dates again. ComRent is open right now. Safe In Utah opens Monday, July 20th at 9:00 a.m., and Shop In Utah opens Monday, July 27th at 9:00 a.m.

The next two Mondays those programs will come online. You can find all the information that we just talked about in this at business.utah.gov/coronavirus. Within each of those sections, you can find this information. There are FAQs that will guide you through these facts that we’ve talked about.

There are also emails that you can email a technical question that’s applicable to your business. We tried to provide you with as much information as we can to help you succeed in this program. So again, $25 million in Shop In Utah, $5 million in Safe In Utah and $30 million still left for ComRent. There are caps on how much you would qualify for. A good pot of money for our Utah businesses is available. I wish you well in going after that. 

That concludes our information today. I just want to thank you so much for listening to the GOED Business Elevated podcast. Dane, a special thanks and shout out to you for all the great work that you’re doing. You have provided us with really good information. We wish all our Utah businesses well and hope to see you succeed. Good luck as we continue to work on Utah’s economy to make sure that we’re safe and healthy. We can all get through this together. Thanks, Dane. 

Dane Ishihara: (27:00) Thank you.


Thanks for listening to the Business Elevated podcast, a production of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Listen to other episodes where you get your podcasts or at business.utah.gov.