In 2020, Facebook announced they were creating a $100 million grant program for small businesses. The aim was to provide funding to businesses affected by COVID-19 that need help covering operational expenses and employees.
Facebook released five criteria for grant applicants to qualify:
- Be a for-profit business.
- Employ between 2 and 50 people.
- Have operated for over a year.
- Have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
- Be located an registered in an eligible location (refer to their list areas).
Additionally, applicants also needed to include the necessary documents:
- Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
- Partnership documents
- Business license
- Proof of incorporation
- Official registration
Then, there’s the grant application itself:
Applicants would then need to register an account with SurveyMonkeyApply, a third-party partner site. The application asked business owners to explain how they would use the grant money to help both their company and their community.
Fast forward to today, and 30,000 businesses from 34 different countries have been awarded grants from Facebook. Within the U.S., Facebook gave 10,000 businesses each $2,500 in cash and $1,500 in advertising credits. The funding is now exhausted and applications are closed.
Nonetheless, grants are still available for small businesses through other foundations and corporations. GrantWatch.com is the leading grant listing directory and currently hosts over 1,000 grants available to for-profit businesses. More than 150 of these grants are specifically for COVID-affected businesses. While there is a fee to use their service, their platform strictly hosts only verified grants which save you hours of tedious work.
Be wary of Facebook messages!
Although the Facebook grant has closed, this doesn’t stop cybercriminals from exploiting the grant program. Unfortunately, they will often dupe people into thinking that the social network is still handing out free money to any user affected by COVID-19. Some scammers even go to the extreme lengths of impersonating your friends or recognizable organizations and send messages about a government grant opportunity that could give you money.
Here’s the top 3 tips to remain safe online:
- If you receive an instant message on Facebook messenger regarding a “financial assistance” grant opportunity, this is a scam. Additionally, do not respond or provide any personal information.
- Never pay any money for a “free” government grant. A government entity will not ask you to pay a processing fee or taxes for a grant, especially in a soliciting social media message.
- Red flags also include having to pay with gift cards, PayPal, money apps, or cryptocurrency.
There is a place in hell for these “Hall of Shamers” who pretend to be our company and many other well-known corporations – promising large amounts of money if you give them your pin or wire them or buy gift cards.
If you believe you are a victim of a Facebook grant scam or would like to learn more, you can call the ITRC Center toll-free at (888) 400-5530. Additionally, you can also learn more about how to identify an online scam with the Federal Trade Commission.