International Trade Assistance

Notice: Changes made to STEP grant allowances for digital/virtual export activities

The reality that most STEP related activities have been cancelled due to Covid-19 has resulted in some new guidance from the SBA increasing the amounts that can be reimbursed for virtual/digital export-related activities. As appropriate, we encourage eligible small businesses to consider incorporating these allowable and reimbursable activities into your recovery strategies:

  • Fees for shipping sample products. Increased to a cap of $4,000.
  • Cost of compliance testing existing product for entry into an export market. Increased to a cap of $6,000.
  • Export research tool subscription used to assist STEP Clients with market research is allowable as a direct benefit to Eligible Small Business Concerns. Increased to a cap of $2,000 per award year.
  • Website translation into foreign language, search engine optimization, and localization services. Increased to a cap of $6,000.
  • Design of digital marketing media. Increased to a cap of $6,000.
  • Fees and registrations associated with virtual export trainings or conferences are also allowed at the normal cap of $5,000.

State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant has been awarded to Vermont by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is administered by the Vermont Department of Economic Development. Funding assistance is available to eligible Vermont businesses to support entry into foreign markets or expand international export activity through trade shows, trade missions, market research, and export education.

The SBA and STEP’s objective is to increase the overall number of small business exporters and increase their export sales with a focus on relationship development, export planning, and job creation.

Eligible Expenses

Eligible Vermont businesses may apply to receive reimbursements for up to 75 percent of pre-approved, allowable, export-related expenses, up to a maximum of $15,000 per federal award cycle for up to three (3) of the following activities (separate applications must be submitted for each activity):

  • Registration fees, booth space, and booth build-out at export trade shows (Up to $5,000 per application);
  • Development of export trade show exhibits (Up to $5,000 per application);
  • Design of export market-specific marketing materials or campaigns including design and translation of brochures and targeted advertising in industry-appropriate media, does not include printing (Up to $5,000 per application);
  • Fees for shipping sample product (Up to $2,000 per award cycle);
  • Participation in ExporTech or export trade training (Up to $6,000 per award cycle);
  • Participation in foreign market sales trip (Up to $5,000 per application);
  • Participation in foreign trade mission (Up to $5,000 per application);
  • Cost of compliance testing an existing product for entry into an export market (Up to $2,000 per award cycle);
  • Export market research tool subscription (Up to $1,000 per award cycle);
  • Localization of websites for target export markets including website translation, technical localization and search engine optimization (SEO) for export markets (Up to $3,000 per award cycle)

Application and Reimbursement Process

Vermont businesses must meet criteria set forth by the SBA defining Eligible Small Business Concerns (ESBCs) to be eligible for STEP funding. ESBCs may apply to receive reimbursements for eligible expenditures by completing a two-part application. Prior to starting the activity, please complete PART A: Reimbursement Grant Application and submit all supporting documents:

  • SBA Self-Representation as an Eligible Small Business Concern form;
  • Current W-9 signed within the last six (6) months;
  • Certificate of Insurance certifying a minimum of $1,000,000 in commercial general liability, $500,000 in automobile liability, workers compensation in compliance with Vermont state laws, and indicating State of Vermont as the certificate holder. 

Upon completion of the trade activity, a second form is required, PART B: Data Collection Instrument, along with scanned copies of paid invoices/receipts and an itemized worksheet indicating costs in U.S. Dollars at the time expenses were incurred.

Many questions about the STEP process may be answered in the STEP Program Guidelines. Please read through this document before starting your application.


                                                                 “Funded in part through a grant with the US Small Business Administration”

VT Step Program Guidelines

PART B: Data Collection Instrument

PART B: Data Collection Instrument

Contact Us

Tim Tierney, Director of International Trade

Hilary DelRoss, State Trade Expansion Program Manager

One National Life Drive
Deane C. Davis Building, 6th Floor
Montpelier, VT 05620-0501

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