SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County small businesses still struggling due to the effects of the coronavirus shutdown have another chance to receive sorely needed financial aid to keep their operations going.
Officials announced Tuesday a second round of its Small Business Impact Grant program, which targeted local businesses closed by COVID-19’s public health orders. This latest round is aimed at reaching small businesses overlooked in the rush of initial federal relief efforts.
“The purpose of the grant program from the very beginning (was) to help these businesses that are slipping through the cracks and have not been supported or helped or found the financial aid they need through either the Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic Injury Disaster Relief program,“ said Dina Blaes, director of Salt Lake County’s Office of Regional Development. “That remains our commitment, to help those smaller businesses. We also wanted to provide direct support to businesses that had been directly impacted by the health department and the health orders that were issued.”
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday outside of the county complex, she noted that since mid-June, the county has awarded $2.4 million in grants to 142 businesses, along with $2.1 million in grants requested by businesses still under review. The average grant award in the first round was $17,000, she added. The $40 million program is being funded through the county’s allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act.
The maximum grant available is $35,000, which a number of businesses were able to take advantage of, including one Salt Lake City entrepreneur who had only been in operation since January when the pandemic hit, putting his business in financial peril.
“COVID definitely got us in the worst timing in terms of the financial situation,” said David Chon, owner of Nohm restaurant located in the Granary District. “We were getting the hang of our food costs, labor and things like that. But we were kind of running out of money already.”
At the time of the mandated closures, Chon said he was considering applying for a loan to keep his establishment going when he heard about the county’s grant program.
“We didn’t get the PPP so we were just thinking about what can we do, then this grant came out,” he said. “I was quite surprised that we got the full amount of the grant, which is going to help us survive for at least three or four months.”
I want to assure everyone in Salt Lake County that I’m committed to both the health and safety of our residents, but I’m also committed to our (current and) future economic prosperity.
–Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson
Blaes said that during the first funding round, Salt Lake County determined that 45% of applicants were outside the main industries that were forced to temporarily close, but were still subject to the impact of COVID-19. Additionally, some applicants received federal aid from the U.S. Small Business Administration ’s Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, however, the loans were not enough to keep the enterprises afloat through this extended period of the outbreak, she said.
In this new round, some of the requirements have changed to the benefit of a broader range of potential applicants, she added.
“The eligibility criteria that a business goes through as the first step to the application program asked them about whether or not that business had received prior funding,” Blaes explained. “If they did, they were ineligible for this first round, but they are now eligible.”
In the second round, all business industries are eligible to apply, as well as those who received other federal, state or local COVID-19 aid, she said. Applicants who received aid through CARES Act funding are now eligible if their initial amount was less than $35,000. There is no deadline to apply and grants will be distributed until the money runs out, she said.
For Craig Silverstein, owner of Liberty Park rides and concessions, being able to access funds during the first round of grants could not have come at a more opportune time.
“At one point we were thinking about not opening. When we look at our sales from the initial grant period from March 16 through June 16, we had done $70,000 approximately last year and this year we did $4,000,” he explained. “So really, what it has done is has provided a lifeline for us now. We have $35,000 that we can use for expenses, labor, food, insurance, to continue and it makes it so that we will survive.”
“The grant made it so I can stay open,” Silverstein said. “The grant is going to make it so I can break even and that’s really important because then we can operate and pay the bills.”
Prospective applicants with questions can call the county’s Business Relief Hotline at (385) 468-4011 or visit slco.org/covid-19 for more information.
While economic recovery will continue to be a long-term strategic effort, the county is committed to mitigating short-term effects in an effort to stabilize the local economy, said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.
“I want to assure everyone in Salt Lake County that I’m committed to both the health and safety of our residents, but I’m also committed to our (current and) future economic prosperity,” she said. “We look at the data, we see some promise right now in our state and in our county.”