Top Small Business Grants in California

By Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman · May 22, 2024 · 9 minute read

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Top Small Business Grants in California

California has about 4.2 million small business owners who can apply for small business grants. Submitting an application and competing for small business grants in California can help you grow your small or medium-sized enterprise in the Golden State.

California’s economy has a gross domestic product of $4 trillion as of the 3rd quarter of 2023. That’s the largest GDP in the United States out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Small businesses contribute to the nation’s economy.

Small and medium-size firms exported about $69.1 billion worth of goods from California per year, second in the nation to Texas ($147.8 billion), according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau export data.

Below we highlight some of the top small business grants in California that you can explore.

Grants for Small Businesses in California

If you’re looking for small business grants in California, here are some potential options to consider:

Replacing, Removing, or Upgrading Underground Storage Tanks (RUST) Grants

•   Program description: California RUST grants provide eligible small business underground storage tank owners and operators with financing of up to 100% of the costs necessary to upgrade, remove, or replace project tanks to comply with the Golden State’s health and safety regulations.

•   Incentive: Receive between $3,000 and $70,000 to replace, remove, or upgrade your small business underground storage tank infrastructure. This financing can cover up to 100% of the costs necessary to undertake a RUST project.

•   General requirements: Here are some of the general requirements for this grant:

◦   Be the owner or operator of an underground storage tank

◦   Employ fewer than 20 full-time and part-time employees as an independent small business owner

◦   Have principal offices and company officers domiciled in California

◦   The facility where your project tank is located legally sold gasoline after January 1999 as a fuel retailer

◦   You’ve sold less than 1.5 million gallons of gasoline annually for each of the two years preceding the submission of your grant application

◦   Be in compliance with state health and safety codes

•   How to apply: You can submit an application through the California State Water Resources Control Board’s Financial Assistance Application Submittal Tool (FAAST) system.

California Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Nursing Home Grants

•   Program description: California’s skilled nursing home facilities can apply for CMP communicative technology grants to purchase tablets and tablet-related accessories. Eligible nursing homes can also apply for CMP reinvestment project grants to cover expenses related to improving the quality of care or quality of life for long-term care facility residents.

•   Incentive: Receive funding for nursing home reinvestment projects. (There is no stated limit to the amount of funds you can request for reinvestment projects that improve the quality of life for residents in skilled nursing facilities.) You can generally request up to $3,000 to buy tablets for telehealth and virtual family visits.

•   General requirements: You may qualify for these grants if you operate a certified skilled nursing facility (SNF) in California.

•   How to apply: Access the application forms online and submit a completed application to the California Department of Public Health.

California Small Agricultural Business Drought and Flood Relief Grants

•   Program description: This program can provide grants to eligible small agricultural businesses in California that have been financially impacted by severe drought or flooding.

•   Incentive: Receive up to $100K if you’re a qualified small agricultural business owner impacted financially by flooding or drought.

•   General requirements: Here are some of the general requirements for these grants:

◦   Operate a small agricultural business domiciled in California

◦   Have 100 or fewer full-time employees

◦   Have conducted business in California prior to January 2020

◦   Your business is currently active and operating

◦   Storm flooding or severe drought has affected your business financially

•   How to apply: You can apply through California’s drought and flood relief grant portal. Take note that annual application deadlines are typically early in the year.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Grants

•   Program description: The California Department of Food and Agriculture offers a variety of small business grant programs through its Office of Farm to Fork.

•   Incentive: Eligible small businesses can request funding for key initiatives, such as funding to buy energy-efficient refrigeration and freezer equipment under the annual Healthy Refrigeration Grant Program.

•   General requirements: Requirements can vary by grant, but you’ll generally need to operate a qualified small business in California in an urban area or low-food access area to be eligible for one of these grants.

•   How to apply: Apply online for any open CDFA Office of Farm to Fork grant opportunities.

EmployABILITY Business Grant

•   Program description: Small business owners in California can use this grant to hire, train, and accommodate individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions or physical disabilities.

•   Incentive: Receive $20K to $200K to support the hiring and training of neurodiverse employees or individuals with physical disabilities.

•   General requirements: Be a California small or medium-sized business owner and commit to hiring and employing individuals with disabilities to qualify for this grant.

•   How to apply: Visit EmployABILITY California if you’re interested in applying.

Who Provides Small Business Grants in California?

State government agencies, including the California Department of Rehabilitation, offer a variety of small business grants in California.

You can compare small business grants in California with similar programs in other states, such as:

•   Florida small business grants

•   Indiana small business grants

•   New York small business grants

Do You Have to Pay Back a Small Business Grant?

A small business grant typically comes with terms and conditions, and you may be responsible for paying back the grant if you violate those terms. In general, small and midsized business owners are not required to pay back an SMB grant absent any violations. (This is, of course, a big benefit vs. loans, which are paid back with interest and typically involve loan fees as well.)

You typically have to sign a funding agreement to accept a small business grant. As mentioned above, the grant may come with certain conditions. Using the grant for an illegitimate purpose may violate the agreement and require business owners to pay back the grant.

Small business grants may require you to spend the money by a certain date. You may also have to provide proof of payment and a written statement detailing how you’ve spent the grant.

Recommended: Comparing Personal Loans vs Business Loans

Who Is Eligible for Small Business Grants in California?

Local business owners or operators of an enterprise with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for small business grants in California.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy generally defines a small business as an independent business having fewer than 500 employees. A small business, including individuals with freelancing business ideas, may be eligible for small business grants.

What Industries Does California Support With Grants?

Virtually all industry sectors in California can be eligible for California small business grants, including:

•   Agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting businesses

•   Environmental consulting services

•   Nursing and residential care facilities

•   Retail trade (store and nonstore retailers)

California Resources for SMB Owners Looking for Funding

Here are some resources for small and medium-sized businesses looking for funding in the Golden State:

California Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The California SBDC is a statewide program that can provide California’s small business owners with the following services:

•   Confidential advising

•   Connecting tech entrepreneurs with venture capital

•   Interactive training sessions

SBA District Offices in California

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a federal agency that provides resources and support to small business owners. The SBA has six district offices in California:

•   SBA Fresno District Office. This SBA district serves California’s San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast. It’s centrally located in Fresno.

•   SBA Los Angeles District Office. This SBA district serves three counties in southeastern California (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura). It’s located in Los Angeles.

•   SBA Orange County / Inland Empire District Office. This SBA district serves three southern California counties (Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside). Depending on where you’re based, you can contact the main office in Santa Ana or the branch office in Palm Desert.

•   SBA Sacramento District Office. This SBA district serves 21 counties in northeastern California. It’s centrally located in Citrus Heights.

•   SBA San Diego District Office. This SBA district serves the southernmost counties in California (San Diego and Imperial). It’s based in San Diego.

•   SBA San Francisco District Office. This SBA district serves 14 counties in northern California, including south of the Bay Area in Santa Cruz and along the Oregon border in Del Norte. It’s based in San Francisco.

Alternative Funding Sources for Small Businesses in California

Here are some alternative funding sources for small businesses in California:

California State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI)

California’s SSBCI is a federally funded program for small business owners in the Golden State. Federal law — the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 — allocates nearly $1.2 billion to California’s State Small Business Credit Initiative program.

Here’s how California plans to use the SSBCI funding:

•   California Collateral Support Program — $472.8 million. This program provides cash collateral to help small businesses qualify for small business loans.

•   California Small Business Loan Guarantee Program — $391 million. This program helps California small business owners access funding, including financing for startup costs, construction, inventory, working capital, and business expansion.

•   California Capital Access Program (CalCAP) — $118.2 million. This program, also known as CalCAP for Small Business, uses SSBCI matching funds to support portfolio insurance on small business loans.

•   Inclusive California Initiative — $100 million. This program helps provide venture capital funding to California small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

•   Emerging California Initiative — $50 million. This program provides venture capital funding to underrepresented managers and fund managers who intend to invest in small businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

•   California Co-investment Initiative — $50 million. This program will help provide venture capital funding to eligible businesses, including those owned by underrepresented individuals or based in underserved regions of California.

California Microloan Lenders

Community-based nonprofits may offer microloans of up to $50,000 to small business owners in California, including microloans for women-owned small businesses. In general, microloans can range from $500 to $50K and may be available to startups.

California SMB Loans from Private Lenders

Banks, credit unions, and private lenders may offer different types of small business loans to California business owners.

Here are some of the funding products you may consider depending on your needs:

•   Commercial real estate loans

•   Equipment financing

•   Small business loans for startups

•   Working capital lines of credit

Recommended: How Much Does It Cost to Start a Business

The Takeaway

Small businesses are eligible for a number of grants in California, ranging from state or local governments to private sources.

If you’re seeking financing for your business, SoFi can help. On SoFi’s marketplace, you can shop top providers today to access the capital you need. Find a personalized business financing option today in minutes.

With SoFi’s marketplace, it’s fast and easy to search for your small business financing options.


How do you get a small business grant in California?

You can apply for California small business grants, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for one. You may have to submit a grant application as a qualified small business owner to be considered for a small business grant in California.

How hard is it to get a business loan in California?

You may have difficulty getting a small business loan in California if you have bad credit or insufficient business experience. You generally have to pay back business loans with interest.

What is the easiest SBA loan to get approved for?

There’s no guarantee you’ll get approved for any SBA loan, but SBA microloans may be one of the easier ones to get if you’re a new business owner. Startups may be eligible for SBA microloans of up to $50K. If you’re looking for a streamlined application process, SBA Express working capital loans are an option you may consider.

Photo credit: iStock/andreswd

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