By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 8/8/20
After altering the qualifications, a second round is opening for Rockingham County’s small business grant program starting Monday that will allow more small businesses to apply for COVID-19 relief funding.
The grant program, approved by the Board of Supervisors on June 24, is funded by $500,000 the county received from the CARES Act and will be used to provide funds to support rent, mortgage payments, utility expenses, payroll and similar expenses for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Monday until Aug. 23, small businesses located in the county and seven incorporated towns can submit an application for grant funding. The grant review team will meet Aug. 25 to review applications, the Economic Development Authority will meet Aug. 27 to approve recipients and payments will be made on Aug. 28.
The first round saw 52 applications, with 33 businesses approved and $175,000 in grants awarded.
During the review process, Timothy Hulings, an EDA member and volunteer on the review team, said on July 30 that the meeting went well and was an “enjoyable situation,” but the team struggled with approving applications due to stipulations in qualifications.
For instance, a small business must have at least three full-time employees to qualify and the few businesses that had one or two full-time employees were disqualified.
“We didn’t wish to deny them, but we had to,” Hulings said.
Another aspect of criteria was a business had to show it experienced a revenue loss of 25% or more due to COVID-19 when compared to average revenue from the past two years. But Hulings said some businesses that applied weren’t open last year and were therefore denied.
Understanding some of the stipulations, the EDA unanimously requested a second round of grants opened with a few modifications to “widen the net,” said County Administrator Stephen King in July.
Trish Davidson, director of finance for the county, said changes included a small business to have a minimum of one employee on-site, gross annual receipts of less than $5 million and eliminating the employment and administrative criteria for the service industry to appeal to restaurants and daycare centers.
With the change in employee number requirements, businesses with one to 25 full-time employees would be eligible for a grant of $5,000. Businesses with 26 to 50 full-time employees are eligible for a grant of $10,000.
Locally owned franchise businesses are eligible for grants. Banks, financial institutions and franchise businesses not locally owned are ineligible for the grant program.
Josh Gooden, economic development and tourism coordinator, said with the new qualifications, the county has received more interest in the program.
“We are hopeful that the grants are able to assist all small businesses that apply and meet the new qualifications,” he said. “The types of business also includes businesses in the service industry, which has changed from the first round.”
The full grant program agreement and application can be found on the county’s website at rockinghamcountyva.gov, or by calling 540-564-3000.