CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday, May 19, to earmark $2.5 million of the county’s CARES Part B spending allocation to help businesses struggling as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
The money is part of the $4.4 million the county will receive from the federal government to assist with expenses directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. CARES stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security.
The county allocated the funds as follows: $2.5 million for business recovery, $700,000 for broadband, $600,000 for community programs, $200,000 for building modifications and $400,000 for administrative and human resources costs.
The business recovery money will be distributed through the new Small Business Assistance and Recovery Fund in the form of grants to provide assistance to businesses as they begin to reopen. The program is being coordinated by Heather Tinelli, county director of economic and tourism development, who has been working on the details. The goal is to help businesses “reopen, re-employ and remain in Queen Anne’s County.”
Grants can be used to pay for personal protective equipment, expenses incurred to move tables around and reconfigure space to allow for social distancing, to help with rent and utility costs, and provide supplies needed to allow businesses to serve additional customers.
“We anticipate the average grant will be about $10,000,” Tinelli told commissioners. She said $10,000 wouldn’t be enough for some of the larger businesses but that many of the smaller businesses also would have lower costs.
Even the businesses that haven’t been allowed to reopen yet, “many already know what their costs are going to be,” she said.
The businesses that have reopened are following general guidelines, but no details have been issued for reopening restaurants.
“We have heard some complaints and concerns from the restaurants as they haven’t been given exact feedback on what exactly they’re going to have to do,” Tinelli said.
The fund will be available to both for profit businesses and nonprofits, with priority given to those with employees; businesses have to be in Queen Anne’s County, be in good standing and meet Small Business Administration standards, Tinelli said.
She was working on a five-member grant committee made up of volunteers from the economic development arena who are already familiar with grants.
The commissioners asked how many businesses the fund would be able to help. “It depends on how much they ask for,” Tinelli said.
There are around 2,500 businesses in county, and “I could see 500 applications coming through,” she said.
Commissioner Jack Wilson said he thought businesses that had not already received relief funds, such as Payroll Protection Program grants, should go to the top of the list. Commissioner Steve Wilson agreed.
Tinelli said the application would ask for that information as well as financials for the business “to make sure they’re successful or at least liquid to a certain point.”
The second part of the program would involve helping match workers who have lost their jobs during the pandemic with employers and provide retraining if needed. Tinelli said she was working with the Workforce Investment Board at Chesapeake College, and there is $200,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds that could help with the training component.
The goal would be to get those people re-employed in the county in higher paying jobs with benefits, she said.
“Queen Anne’s County understands that its businesses have been adversely and severely impacted by the restrictions enacted related to COVID19 and have therefore developed a program specific to meet the needs of our businesses during economic recovery,” Tinelli said in a statement after the meeting.
The commissioners asked urged Tinelli to get the county program underway as soon as possible.
“We want to get the dollars to the folks who need it,” said County Administrator Todd Mohn.
An online portal will be used to receive applications. For more information or to be added to the list of applicants, businesses can email email@example.com.