Surry County offers COVID-19 Relief Grants for local businesses

By: Terry Harris | Twitter: @SSDispatch
Posted: June 4, 2020 | 12:45 p.m.

SURRY – Economic Development Director David Harrison took time out last week to explain a new program of COVID-19 Relief Grants for small businesses that the Board of Supervisors just approved in Surry County. 

“The purpose of the program is to assist small businesses that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Harrison began. “It came about through discussions the County Administrator and I had concerning the implications of COVID-19 and what other communities were doing to alleviate its impact, because we recognized that small businesses, especially, don’t have the volume or population on which to draw that larger ones do.”

“Ordinarily I would be traveling a great deal looking for ways to promote business growth in Surry County, but travel restrictions to reduce the spread of the virus have pretty much brought that to a halt,” he continued.  “So I proposed that we take the funds already in the budget for travel and promotional event expenses and funnel them into helping to stabilize and shore up the local businesses already here and suffering from the pandemic.” 

“Administrator Rollins allowed me to propose to the Board that we take funds from the Economic Development Budget to help out these businesses already here,” he added. “As a result, the Surry County Board of Supervisors approved a Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant program.”

Harrison explained that because the county cannot give money directly to businesses, they enlisted the EDA and transferred the funds to them so that they could regulate the process and distribute the funds appropriately.

The program for all applications at this time is limited to $20,000 total, although he said if community partners choose to partner with the program and provide additional funds to increase the scope of the project, that would be welcome.

“We are still actively looking for other resources and examining resources that are coming forward as well, like businesses or foundations that want to participate as a match,” Harrison said. “This is a local contribution; but we are also looking at federal and state funding to help as well.”  

Harrison said that he feels strongly about the importance of the program, because to him it shows that in spite of the COVID-19 crisis, Surry County, though small in comparison to other larger and wealthier counties, is still able and eager to help its own. 

“It makes me feel as though my working in this capacity has a true purpose – meaning,” he added. “It’s important to me that I can feel that I’m not just occupying a space or a title. That I’m actually helping businesses in the community from which I came to ensure that they can withstand during this difficult time.”

Some of the requirements for consideration of awarding the grants include that the business must be established and operational within Surry County for at least 12 months, can only have 25 or fewer employees, and must have made efforts to retain employees during the COVID-19 outbreak, taking into consideration that legally required closures may have made employee retention easier in some industries than others.  

If approved, grant funds will be distributed to the businesses as a reimbursement for qualifying business costs that occurred between March 17, 2020 and June 30, 2020. Qualifying expenses include payroll, rent, utilities, mortgage payment, supplies, and business expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The application and a full list of grant criteria are available on the County’s website at: www.surrycountyva.gov. Surry County Economic Development Authority (EDA) will be accepting applications for COVID19 Business Assistant Grants, and will select recipients to be awarded. The contact person for applications is Joyce Henderson at covidrelief@surrycountyva.gov.

Copyright 2020 Womack Publishing 

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