With the damage the coronavirus has done to small businesses, those businesses need all the help they can get.

Now, a public-private organization that promotes economic development across the state is offering a new way to help out the state’s businesses in the middle of the pandemic.

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) currently has “substantial” grant money meant to help small businesses in the state exhibit their products at virtual international trade shows. While COVID-19 has shut down in-person trade events and led a lot of countries to restrict travelers from the US, state economic development officials say this new program can help fill the void.

In a press release announcing the availability of the funds, Mike Hubbard, EDPNC’s director of international trade, said that the state’s businesses have to make their products known even during a pandemic.

“Trade events remain essential to generating new sales leads in markets around the world,” Hubbard said, adding that North Carolina exporters still have to find ways to exhibit their products and connect with new customers internationally during a pandemic.

This is federal money from the US Small Business Administration and this is the first time that agency has made participating in virtual trade shows eligible for federal “State Trade Expansion Program” grants.

In North Carolina, the EDPNC administers the grants for small businesses, which are defined as those with 500 employees or less. The loans usually help those businesses pay for booth registration, air travel, lodging and marketing-materials associated with international trade shows – but now that same money can be used to help fund virtual presentations at those shows.

The program can reimburse a small business up to $5,000 for registering a virtual trade show booth and up to $6,000 for related foreign-language translation of marketing materials.

While few in-person shows are being held right now, the program continues to provide grants for exhibiting at those events.

One survey by a consulting firm found that 45 percent of corporate exhibit managers have either participated or plan to participate in a virtual trade show.

Businesses interested in applying should email the state’s Economic Development Partnership’s international trade division at ITD@edpnc.com.

Grants are also available to help businesses with translation issues and for search engine optimization for business websites.