Are You Eligible for New USDA Grant for COVID Response Expenditures?

Updated: Oct 13, 2021



Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg. The image shows a red barn with silo with stalks of corn in the foreground.
Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg. The image shows a red barn with silo with stalks of corn in the foreground.

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The USDA recently announced the Pandemic Response and Safety (PRS) Grant Program, which will provide approximately $650 million in grants to food processors, distributors, farmers markets, and producers. Funding through the program aims to reimburse eligible expenses incurred for coronavirus response efforts, including worker protections, between January 27, 2020, the date upon which the public health emergency was declared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, and December 31, 2021.


Eligible entities can apply for PRS funds until 11:59 PM Eastern Time on November 22, 2021. More details can also be found at the USDA’s PRS portal.


Who is Eligible to Apply?

For the first wave of funding, USDA focuses on 1) small producers, 2) food processors and distributors that meet small business size standards, and 3) farmers markets. USDA is also focusing this first round of funding on certain commodities due to the unique impacts of the pandemic on their businesses.


All farmers markets are eligible to apply for funds. Agricultural producers, food processors, and distributors are listed according to eligible North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and size standards established by the maximum number of employees or annual receipts allowed for a business and its affiliates to be considered eligible.


Eligible producers include Subsector 111 - Crop Production (including most vegetables, fruits, mushroom, and bean producers) and Subsector 112 - Animal Production and Aquaculture (specifically fish hatcheries, shellfish farmers, and honey producers). According to the eligible producer tables, all indicated businesses with average annual receipts of $5,000,000 or less are eligible to apply. Note: Average annual receipts/revenue is generally calculated as total receipts/revenue or total income plus the cost of goods sold (including all affiliates, if any) over the latest completed three (3) fiscal years divided by three (3).


Eligible processors under Subsector 115 - Support Activities for Agriculture and Forestry only include specialty crops related post-harvest activities, such as packaging, sorting, grading, or packing fresh or farm-dried fruits and vegetables, with average annual sales of $30,000,000 or less. Various food manufacturers under Subsector 311- Food Manufacturing are eligible to apply based on the average number of full-time or part-time employees over the past 12 months. Eligible distributers include several types of food merchant wholesalers, including food hubs and grocery stores, that meet the indicated employee size limits.


An operation that could be classified under more than one NAICS code may choose between them for purposes of this grant. Check the Eligible Industry Tables provided on the PRS Grant Portal for more details on eligible producers, processors, and distributors.


Production and processing activities unrelated to human food, such as ornamental fish production or refrigeration and storage of fur, are not eligible to apply for funds. Future funding may expand eligibility but is dependent on the availability of funds.


What Can I Use the Funding For?

According to USDA, the PRS Grant funds are intended to help agricultural operations by reimbursing eligible expenses incurred for coronavirus response efforts such as:

  • Workplace Safety: Implementing workplace safety measures to protect workers against COVID-19

  • Providing personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning supplies, sanitizer, or handwashing stations

  • Installation and purchase of air filters or new signage

  • Market Pivots: Implementing market pivots to protect workers against COVID–19

  • Developing and implementing online platforms

  • Utilizing online or print materials to communicate market pivots

  • Retrofitting Facilities: Retrofitting facilities for worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID–19

  • Installation and purchase of protective barriers made of plexiglass or plastic sheeting, walk-up windows, heat lamps/heaters, fans, tents, propane, weights, tables, chairs, and lighting

  • Transportation: Providing additional transportation options to maintain social distancing and worker and consumer safety to protect against COVID-19

  • Securing additional transportation services for workers

  • Offering new delivery routes or distribution services

  • Worker Housing: Providing worker housing that protects workers against COVID-19

  • Securing additional housing resources/services to maintain social distancing or to allow for quarantining of new or exposed employees

  • Medical: Providing health services to protect workers against COVID-19

  • Offering or enabling vaccinations, testing, or healthcare treatment of infected employees, including any paid leave due to COVID-19 infection

The minimum funding request amount is $1,500, and the maximum funding request amount is $20,000. If an applicant is unsure if a practice they implemented is included in the list of eligible expenses, they may still submit an application for review.


How Do I Apply?

Eligible businesses must apply online through the PRS Grant Program application website before 11:59 PM Eastern Time on November 22, 2021. Applicants must submit a complete application package consisting of the Applicant Organization Form and the PRS Activity Checklist.


It’s important to note that all applicants must obtain a DUNS number before applying. A DUNS Number is a nine-digit unique identifier issued to valid business entities based on the business name and physical location. Obtaining a DUNS number is free to valid business entities but can take up to five business days.


To request a new DUNS Number, you need to visit the PRS Program DUNS Number Portal to provide basic company information and electronically upload two (2) documents that support the business information you entered. Documents must contain the Legal Business Name and Current Physical Address of the business. If you are a Sole Proprietorship, your legal business name is your full legal given name (i.e., Jane A. Doe), so the documents must contain your full legal name.


Examples of acceptable documents include Secretary of State Articles of Incorporation; Secretary of State receipt of Filing; Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) Confirmation Letter; Employer Identification Number (EIN) Confirmation Letter; DBA / Assumed Name Certificate Filing; Lease Agreement; Mortgage; Phone or Internet Bill; Utility Bill; Homeowners or Renters Insurance; City or State Tax Permit; Invoice from a Third Party; and, Proof of Insurance.


Although applications may be submitted early, early applications will not be reviewed until after the application window has closed. However, all complete and eligible applications submitted before the deadline will be considered for funding.


If an application is approved, USDA will send a Notice of Award to the application point of contact, using a secure link sent via email, and include instructions for accepting funds.


*Update: Note that although proof of expenditures is not required at the time of application, USDA may ask for such as part of the terms of the grant. Sufficient records should be available for the past three years to demonstrate that requested funds were used for coronavirus response efforts during the eligible time period, and can include purchase receipts, email communications, and pictures of implementation, etc.


If you have questions about applying or obtaining a DUNS number, visit this PRS application website or contact the Application Helpdesk by phone at (301) 238-5550 or emailing usda.ams.prs@grantsolutions.gov. The helpdesk hours of operation are Monday – Friday, 9AM-9PM ET.