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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, May 5, 2020 3 months ago

Volusia to set aside $10 million for grants to aid reopening small businesses during COVID-19

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The money will come from the $96.5 million in CARES Act funding the county received.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Volusia County is allocating $10 million of its CARES Act funding to help small businesses with costs associated with reopening modifications due to COVID-19.

Only businesses with 1-25 employees will be eligible for the county's Relaunch Volusia Small Business Re-Opening Grant, and they must demonstrate an impact from COVID-19, have been in operation since December 2019, and must not be in foreclosure or bankruptcy at this time. Additionally, businesses cannot be home-based or have been deemed essential by the state. Businesses that haven't received funding from other sources will be prioritized, based on the criteria County Economic Development Director Helga van Eckert outlined during the County Council meeting on Tuesday, May 5. 

“Simplicity really is the key here," van Eckert said. "We need to make it as simple for the businesses to apply, and as simple for our staff to review, and as simple for the administration to process the review and get the monies out to the community because time is of the essence.”

County staff created an Economic Recovery Task Force to develop the grant, and consulted with city economic development practitioners, chambers of commerce, Team Volusia and the CEO Business Alliance. The conversation revolved around how to address the greatest need in the community that would also provide for the highest return of dollars, van Eckert explained. 

With over 12,000 small businesses in the county, Volusia won't be able to provide funding for all of them, but eligible businesses will be able to request up to $3,000 to reimburse money spent on things like UV sanitizing cabinets, infrared thermometers, hand sanitizing stations and installation of Plexiglass shields. 

It's mean to help businesses embrace the "new normal" in creative ways that don't come across as draconian, van Eckert said.

County Councilwoman Barb Girtman said this was a great way to help businesses start to put in place virus precautions, and asked if the county would help businesses access these products, some of which may be hard to come by. Van Eckert said the county aims to provide businesses with a list of vendors that have available supplies. 

County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler pointed out that the grant won't help with where small businesses are hurting the most — lost wages and revenues.

“One of the small businesses was saying there was no way they could spend $2,000 on signage and things for that," she said.

In response, County Manager George Recktenwald said that if funds remain available later on, they could consider opening the grant up for more COVID-19-related damages. 

The application will be available at volusiabusinessresources.com. A resolution will come before the council at its meeting on Tuesday, May 12.

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