Small Business Grant Program

Recognizing that small businesses are the backbone of our community, New Hanover County created a Small Business Economic Incentive Grant Program that is providing 130 small business owners with grants of $10,000 each. The goal is to help them in the short-term, so they can get back on their feet in the long-term.

The application process is closed and the 130 businesses have been chosen through a random lottery selection. View additional information in the press release here.

To be eligible, businesses must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Located in New Hanover County (including the unincorporated area, City of Wilmington, and the towns of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach)
  • At least one of the owners is a New Hanover County resident
  • More than one and less than 25 employees (including full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees)
  • Existing commercial enterprise that has been in operation for more than 6 months, with a valid Tax ID
  • Experienced layoffs, furloughs, expenditures or loss of revenue due to COVID-19
  • In good tax standing with all Federal, State and local governments (or have a payment plan in place prior to March 10, when Governor Roy Cooper declared a statewide state of emergency)

Businesses who meet any one of the following criteria are not eligible:

  • Located outside New Hanover County
  • Owners do not live in New Hanover County
  • Only one employee
  • 25 or more employees
  • Debarred or suspended from working with North Carolina
  • Pending bankruptcy

In addition, the county is following guidance from the federal Small Business Administration on specific types of ineligible businesses. These include financial institutions, nonprofits, home-based businesses, religious organizations, gambling outfits and illegal businesses. The Small Business Administration guidance can be found here.

The $1.3 million program will provide grants to 130 small businesses.

The grants will award flat amounts of $10,000 to each qualifying small business.

The funds must be spent by December 30, 2020.

These are grants, not loans, and will not have to be repaid unless there are unspent grant funds as of December 30, 2020, or if the program’s rules are not followed.

If there are unspent funds as of December 30, 2020, that money would have to be returned to New Hanover County.

Each awardee is required to track expenses and will be required to submit a final accounting form documenting the use of grant funds by January 20, 2021. This accounting form is subject to an audit by the county. If funds are spent on something other than the eligible uses, that money will have to be paid back.

Eligible expenses include using the money to hire or rehire staff displaced because of COVID-19 or to purchase equipment or supplies that help you ensure you meet social distancing and sanitation guidelines. Examples could include equipment or supplies, like masks, gloves, face shields, social distancing markings, curtains to provide separation for customers or sneeze guards, that you ordinarily wouldn’t have purchased if COVID-19 had never happened.

The grant funds can’t be used for anything that isn’t equipment, supplies or payroll expenses related to COVID-19. This includes paying your rent, car payments or purchasing equipment or material that you would use in the course of everyday business had COVID-19 never happened. You also cannot use the funds to pay the salary of the business owner(s).

New Hanover County suggests you consult with a tax professional if you have questions about taxes or how this impacts your business.

The grant fund is being established from an allocation New Hanover County received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability (CARES) Act and approved by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s guidance for CARES Act funds allows local governments to provide grants to small businesses whose operations have been interrupted by local and state closures and restrictions implemented due to COVID-19. The county and Board of Commissioners believe it is important to allocate a portion of the CARES Act funds to provide a lifeline to as much of the small business community as possible.

Small businesses can apply starting Monday, June 1 through Friday, June 5 at 5 p.m. using a simple application that takes only minutes to complete. The application, which can be found here, should be emailed to Wilmington Business Development (WBD) at

WBD and Live Oak Bank will serve as third-party administrators of the program, with WBD collecting applications and Live Oak Bank disbursing the funds after awardees are selected. Both entities are providing their services free of charge.

Recognizing that the demand will likely exceed the available funding, the county will work with Wilmington Business Development to collect all applications by June 5 and then – using a randomized lottery computer program – the 130 awardees will be chosen without any personal or political considerations.

Wilmington Business Development (WBD), which is the third party collecting applications, will send you an email and make one telephone call to follow up. The lottery selection will take place the week of June 8, with selected businesses being notified around June 10. Please make sure to regularly check your email and any spam filters after June 8.

If you do not receive a call or email from WBD, you have not been selected for the program.

You will need to provide a signed incentive grant agreement (the agreement will be sent to you upon notification), a voided check, and have your application form notarized within 48 hours after you are notified of selection by Wilmington Business Development (this notification for selection will likely come around June 10). In light of COVID-19, the N.C. Secretary of State has provided guidance that notaries can temporarily perform emergency video notarizations, and you can find that information here.

Your application would be disqualified and another awardee would be randomly selected.

The money will be disbursed via direct deposit to provide the funds as quickly as possible in mid-to-late June (selected businesses will need to provide a voided check with routing number and account number). If you do not have any available checks, your bank should be able to provide you with a voided counter check. Funds will be disbursed through Live Oak Bank, a third-party administrator of this grant program.

There is a limited amount of funds available at this time, but there is the possibility of a future small business grant program being established if more federal aid is disbursed and allows for such a program again.

We will begin collecting applications in early June and disburse the funds to the 130 randomly selected businesses by mid-to-late June

Given the limited scope of the grant program, the aid is targeted to businesses located in New Hanover County with at least one owner being a New Hanover County resident.

Yes, as long as at least a share of the business is owned by a New Hanover County resident, you are eligible to apply.

For questions about the grant program, call 910-798-7597 or email

Health: 1650 Greenfield Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-3500 • Fax 910-798-7834 • Human Services Fax 910-798-7824
Environmental Health: 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 140 • Wilmington, NC 28403 • Phone 910-798-6667 • Fax 910-798-7815
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