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North Carolina: Small Business Grants 2023

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

COVID-19 may have caused your business to lose substantial revenue in 2023. Grant awards benefit communities, families, and small businesses. The following information and resources will encourage small business growth in North Carolina. 

There are $20.94 billion in grants in North Carolina and $15.31 billion in additional funding sources from the local government. The funds support small and large businesses in North Carolina. 53,000 farms and 169,798 businesses exist in North Carolina. 

Loans for small businesses can help expand marketing campaigns, hire more employees, and bridge cash flow gaps. In North Carolina, payroll and salaries total $124.32 billion. Each year, more than 27,704 bankruptcy filings are recorded. Federal grants cannot be used to start or expand a business. Small business grants may be able to provide you with funding for your business.

What Is A Grant?

Grants from public agencies are often awarded to new products, services, and projects. It is beneficial for small businesses to be able to apply for grant programs because the money doesn't have to be repaid. Even though securing and administering grants can take time and effort, they can provide low-cost growth. There is a lot of complexity and time involved in grant applications. You must show the financial capability to qualify for a small business grant. Local governments, charities, and foundations provide grants.

North Carolina Small Grants

Residents of North Carolina can apply for a variety of grants. Here is a list of 2023 grants that may interest businesses. 

CornerSquare Community Capital

CornerSquare Community Capital, a $40 million nonprofit fund, supports minority entrepreneurs and low-to-moderate income communities. The fund is unique. Many CDFIs have found that they are undercapitalized to meet the ongoing needs in the communities they serve, especially those of color, women, and those with low-to-moderate incomes (LMI). 

The NC Rural Center and Trust, which emerged from the merger of BB&T and SunTrust, have launched CornerSquare Community Capital. A focus on African American-owned small businesses is part of this innovative program that will allocate 100 percent of funding to women and people in low- and moderate-income communities.

Business Recovery Grant

Those businesses that experienced significant economic loss due to COVID-19 will receive a payment through the Business Recovery Grant Program. US Department of Treasury award number SLRFP0129 supports the project in whole or part. 

The second phase of applications was authorized on March 11, 2022. Grants were authorized in Phase 2:

  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses (NAICS codes 71 and 72) are eligible to apply for hospitality grants.
  • Companies not classified in NAICS Codes 71 or 72 can receive a reimbursement grant.

On or before June 1, 2022, the Department must close the Phase 2 application period.

Applicants must meet certain conditions to qualify for a Phase 2 grant. Grant types determine the conditions.

The following conditions must be met to qualify for a hospitality grant in Phase 2:

  • From March 1, 2019, to February 28, 2021, NAICS Code 71 or 72 correctly reflects the primary activity of the business.
  • As a taxpayer under Article 4 of Chapter 105 of the NC General Statutes, the business is taxed on income.
  • The business suffered an economic loss of at least 20%.

Phase 2 reimbursement grants are only available to businesses that meet all of the following conditions:

  • Business activity between March 1, 2019, and February 28, 2021, is not correctly reflected in NAICS Code 71 or 72.
  • North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 105 identifies the business as an income tax taxpayer under Article 4.
  • The business suffered a loss of at least 20%.

Economic loss is calculated as a percentage of the grant amount or $500,000, whichever is less. A business' economic loss in North Carolina is calculated by reducing the business' gross receipts between March 1, 2019, and February 29, 2020 (the "Pre-COVID Period") and March 1, 2020, through February 28, 2021 (the "COVID Period"). 

PPP Loan Forgiveness

Providing direct incentives to keep workers on payroll is the goal of a PPP loan for small businesses. Payroll costs, including benefits, can be covered with First Draw PPP loans, as can mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs associated with COVID-19, uninsured property damage costs due to looting or vandalism in 2020, as well as supplier costs.

PPP loans disbursed to eligible borrowers may be forgiven in full if they meet the following criteria within 8-24 weeks after disbursement:

  • Maintain compensation and employee levels,
  • Proceeds from the loan cover payroll costs and other eligible expenses
  • 60% of proceeds are spent on payroll.

During the covered period following loan disbursement, eligible borrowers may qualify for full loan forgiveness on Second Draw PPP loans:

  • For First Draw PPP loans, employee and compensation levels must be maintained,
  • The loan proceeds are spent on payroll costs and other eligible expenses, and
  • At least 60% of the proceeds are spent on payroll costs.

Payroll costs, including benefits, can be financed by Second Draw PPP loans. During 2020, funds can also be used for mortgage interest, rent, utilities, worker protection costs in connection with COVID-19, and uninsured property damage caused by looting or vandalism.

In most cases, borrowers can borrow up to 2.5x their average payroll costs for 2019 or 2020 up to $2 million. Second Draw PPP loans can be up to 3.5x the average monthly 2019 or 2020 payroll costs for borrowers in the Accommodation and Food Services industry (use NAICS 72 to confirm).

Who May Qualify

COVID-19 may impact the following entities:

  • Independent contractors, sole proprietors, and self-employed individuals
  • Small business concerns that meet the SBA's size standards (either industry size standards or alternative size standards)

How and when to apply for loan forgiveness

Borrowers can ask for forgiveness once they have used all the loan proceeds they are requesting forgiveness for. Forgiveness can be requested until the maturity date. After ten months, PPP loan payments will no longer be deferred, and borrowers will start making payments to their PPP lender unless borrowers apply for forgiveness.

How To Apply For Loan Forgiveness

  1. Complete the correct form if your lender participates in direct forgiveness through SBA.
  2. Organize your information.
  3. Your PPP lender or SBA needs to receive the forgiveness form and documentation.
  4. Keep an eye on your forgiveness application.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

For businesses impacted by COVID-19, this program provides emergency assistance.

Several restaurants and other eligible businesses received funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) under the American Rescue Plan Act. Restaurants will receive funds of up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per location for pandemic-related revenue losses. Funds do not have to be repaid if they are used for eligible purposes by March 11, 2023.

The following entities are eligible to receive reimbursement for pandemic-related revenue losses:

  • Restaurants
  • Food stands, food trucks, food carts
  • Caterers
  • Bars, saloons, lounges, taverns
  • Snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars
  • Bakeries
  • Brewpubs, tasting rooms, taprooms 
  • Breweries or microbreweries 
  • Wineries and distilleries 
  • Inns 
  • An alcohol producer's licensed premises for tasting, sampling, or purchasing

SBA Debt Relief

COVID-19 impacts the businesses of SBA loan borrowers, and the SBA offers debt relief to them. As part of the CARES Act, SBA will cover six months of borrowers' principal, interest, and any fees associated with 7(a), 504, and Microloan loans (excluding Paycheck Protection Program loans). Under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, this debt relief did not apply to loans made after September 27, 2020.

The Economic Aid Act amended these original provisions on December 27, 2020. Assistance eligibility requirements were revised to include 7(a), 504, and Microloans up to September 27, 2020, even if they have not been fully disbursed. The rest of the debt relief provisions remained the same.

These loans do not require applications. This assistance is provided automatically by SBA:

  • A total of six months of installment payments will be made on eligible loans not in deferment by SBA.
  • Following the deferment period, SBA will begin making monthly payments, with the first payment due within six months.
  • The SBA will pay these borrowers' loans under 7(a), 504, and Microloan programs. After a loan has been fully disbursed, lenders must report the amounts due to SBA. Upon receipt of payments after March 27, 2020, the borrower may apply them to the outstanding loan balance or return them to the lender.

Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG)

Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) are performance-based, discretionary incentives that provide cash grants directly to companies that create jobs and invest in the state.  Competitive recruitment and retention are the only circumstances in which grants are awarded.  Companies must meet strict performance targets to receive JDIG grants, but they can significantly reduce the costs of expanding or locating facilities in the state.

To receive a grant payment, the Departments of Commerce and Revenue conduct yearly performance reviews for up to 12 years. New taxes generated by new jobs are considered in determining JDIG grant payments.  For the duration of the grant and as long as the company meets its performance targets, the awarded company receives a percentage of the newly generated funds.

Special JDIG Grant Categories

  • If a company creates 1,750 jobs in North Carolina and invests $500 million, their project is considered a High-Yield Project (HYP), eligible for a JDIG grant that reimburses up to 90% of new income taxes.
  • When the JDIG Transitional Project is awarded, a company may define the second phase of their project as containing higher investment and job creation targets than those originally defined for phase 1 of the grant.  The Transitional JDIG can take on Transformative Project properties if the company triggers its second phase option.
  • For companies creating 3,000 jobs and investing $1 billion in the state JDIG, Transformative Project awards can reimburse up to 90% of the new personal income withholding.

Amber Grants For Women

Several websites offer grants for women that can be found by searching on Google. There are plenty of scams and complicated government (SBA) sites.  Numerous forms and applications ask for personal information and financial records.

Funding for your business venture can be found with WomensNet. There will still be some hard work and time involved. The site is a great resource for those who want to take their business to the next level. The Amber Grant for Women is a great place to start. The grant is open to business women from around the country (including North Carolina). It's the perfect time to apply for this $10,000 Amber Grant, awarded monthly. You're automatically eligible for a $25,000 grant if you're one of their 12 monthly winners. Over a year, that's $35,000 in grant money.


RETOOL NC grants underutilized small businesses, including those owned by people of color, women, veterans, LGTBQ+, and others. They will receive government funding to recover from COVID. The program for historically underutilized businesses (HUB) will provide up to $25,000. A revenue limit of 1.5 million and a minimum of 50 employees are required.

North Carolina Small Business Impact Grant Program - RETOOLNC

Founded in Fall 2020, RETOOLNC is a grant program to help state-certified minority and women-owned businesses disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Free grant money is available through RETOOL NC for underutilized small businesses, including people of color, women, veterans, and LGBT+ small businesses. Other criteria include having under 50 employees and less than 1.5 million in revenue.

The grant money will aid their recovery from COVID. HUBs and DBEs can receive up to $25,000 in grants to help them continue to recover. Governor Cooper created RETOOLNC to assist certified HUBs and DBEs in recovering from these unexpected business changes.

Downtown North Wilkesboro Grants

In partnership with Duke Energy, businesses in North Wilkesboro that are located downtown can apply for free grants. Each qualified business can receive up to $2500. This includes women, minorities, and disadvantaged businesses. There is a goal of revitalizing downtown with these funds. 

A Facade Grant Program provides financial assistance to downtown business owners who wish to improve the exterior of their properties in a manner that reflects their historic character. Depending on the size of the building, there is a matching grant of 60/40 or $2,000 or $4,000 maximum. Mural Grants are provided to downtown businesses that wish to install murals on their exteriors. The grant covers up to $2,000 of the mural's cost. 

Small Diverse Business Emergency Relief Fund

There is a $1000 grant available from the National Institute of Economic Development for minority-owned and women-owned businesses.  All the cities and counties in North Carolina are eligible to apply for the funds. Minority or women must own 51% of the company, and proof is required. Also, the business must have suffered negatively from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of sales and income. 

Eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Applicants were in business before February 2020
  • Minority or female owners must own at least 51% of the business
  • A valid NC Secretary of State certificate or other verifiable documentation must validate the existence of the business
  • North Carolina must be the location of the business
  • The applicant must demonstrate a COVID-19 pandemic-related economic injury

A decline in business due to COVID19 may impact rent, utilities, or other operational expenses.

North Carolina Business Recovery Grant Program

In May, North Carolina will launch its Business Recovery Grant Program. Around $200 million is available in this round. Small businesses in North Carolina must have lost at least 20 percent of their revenue during the pandemic. A few types of businesses that didn't qualify during Phase 1 will also be included in this funding round. Farmers, gyms, salons, doctors, lawyers, retail businesses, and landscapers will all be eligible for Phase 2. Grants up to $500K are available. Applications are due June 1.

Big Launch Challenge

Startups pitch for money and capital at the Big Launch Challenge. The Launch Place in Danville, Virginia, hosts the event with an RTP office and several local startups in its portfolio. Fourteen companies have received $159,000 through The Launch Place in nearly a decade (as of 2021). Later investments from The Launch Place are often attracted to Big Launch Challenge winners.

Two days of immersion, learning and networking await entrepreneurs and angel investors at this event. On the first day of the two-day event, attendees will learn about ACA Angel University, while on the second day, they will pitch for a chance to win a $15,000 prize.

Incolo (formerly CrowdfundNC)

Raleigh-based Incolo (formerly CrowdfundNC) provides education and services to enable North Carolina startups and small businesses to get funded using creative fundraising strategies, including investment crowdfunding. More than $7 million in investment raises are listed on Incolo’s NC Grind website as of December 2021. The Test The Waters program, run through Incolo partner Beanie & Blazer, helps founders connect with investors within six weeks. Its Incolo Launch service has helped over 20 founders fund and grow their companies successfully. Founders have the option to launch investment offerings via national venture capital and angel groups and to the crowd through funding platforms.

Incolo (formerly CrowdfundNC) enables North Carolina startups and small businesses to raise capital through creative fundraisers, including investment crowdfunding. Since December 2021, Incolo has raised over $7 million in investment. Over 20 founders have funded and grown their companies through Incolo Launch, run by its partner Beanie & Blazer. Startups have the option of launching investment offerings via national venture capital and angel groups or crowdfunding platforms.


The North Carolina GrantWatch program offers grants to small businesses. Besides small business financing, the site also offers grants from local, state, and federal governments and agencies. With GrantWatch, you can find new grants and grant writers who can assist you in preparing outstanding grant proposals. You only need to answer a few questions to apply for a grant. 

There is a Grant Directory for North Carolina in which grants are listed. You can only access North Carolina GrantWatch information by subscribing. It costs $199 for an annual subscription and $18 per week for a weekly subscription. As free members, applicants are not eligible to apply for grants.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What types of small business grants are available in North Carolina?

Small business grants in North Carolina include state-funded programs, local economic development initiatives, and grants offered by private organizations or foundations. These grants cater to various industries, such as technology, agriculture, arts, and retail, and may target specific demographics, like women, minority, or veteran-owned businesses.

How can I find small business grants in North Carolina?

To find small business grants in North Carolina, visit websites for state and local government agencies, such as the North Carolina Department of Commerce or your local chamber of commerce. You can also search for grant opportunities from private organizations, foundations, or business associations by conducting online research or networking with other small business owners in your industry.

What is the application process for North Carolina small business grants?

The application process for North Carolina small business grants varies depending on the specific grant program. Generally, the process involves completing an application form, providing information about your business, outlining your proposed project or plan, and demonstrating how the grant funds will be used. Some grant programs may require additional documentation, such as financial statements, business plans, or letters of recommendation. Carefully review the grant requirements and follow the application guidelines provided by the grantor.

The Bottom Line

In North Carolina, small businesses can access a wide range of resources. Small businesses affected by Coronavirus receive financial support from government and private organizations. A boost to the economy is provided by financial aid for small businesses. Check out the above list of funding opportunities and find one that works for your business.

Venturing beyond North Carolina’s borders may unveil more grant opportunities to bolster your small business. Explore the financial support options available in the Northeast by visiting our latest blog post on grants for Connecticut small businesses. A realm of funding possibilities awaits to be discovered, potentially offering the boost your venture needs!

Exploring grant opportunities beyond North Carolina? Uncover what the Midwest has to offer in our new post highlighting Illinois small business grants. Broaden your funding strategy with insights from different states.

Learn About Small Business grants In South Carolina

If you live in Minnesota instead, check out our article about grants for small businesses in Minnesota.

Are you interested in learning more about different grants and programs that can help you with your living situation? Check out the rest of Gov Relations’ blog section today!

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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