Loudoun County is the latest D.C.-area locality to offer grants to businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak, creating a $1 million fund to respond to the economic calamity.
The county’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the new “COVID-19 Business Interruption” program Tuesday, authorizing cash grants of up to $10,000 each for small businesses. Loudoun’s Department of Economic Development will manage the program, using funding transferred over from a pot reserved to help lure companies to the county.
Who’s eligible for Loudoun grants
Like other efforts around the region, officials targeted the program toward small businesses. Any business with at least three employees and no more than 100 will be able to apply for the grants, so long as the company does not log gross receipts annually of more than $2.5 million. Businesses will also need to demonstrate a 25% decline in revenue due to the pandemic to qualify.
Larger companies with between 51 and 100 employees will be able to receive up to $10,000, and supervisors set aside a total of $550,000 for those grants. Businesses with between three and 50 workers, or home-based businesses with up to 100 employees, will be able to get up to $7,500 in grants. The county is devoting the remaining $450,000 in the fund for those awards.
Buddy Rizer, Loudoun’s economic development director, says it was important for officials to offer grants, rather than loans, because he expects that “most small businesses are going to come out of this with a lot of debt.”
Officials hope for rapid rollout
The county is also putting a premium on speed. Rizer hopes to have applications ready for businesses by April 30, at the latest, he said. And he envisions a fast turnaround time too, with the goal of getting money in the hands of businesses by the first week of May.
“We’ve been putting the pieces together on this for a couple of weeks, working behind the scenes with our board and other stakeholders for about three weeks now,” Rizer said. “It’s a pretty aggressive schedule, but we just want to help as many businesses as possible.”
Officials intend to award the grants on a first-come, first-served basis and will collect data from companies on their monthly rent or mortgage payments and leases they’ve signed.
Rizer wants the application to be simple, however, noting that “it’s pretty obvious that businesses are suffering” and in need of assistance. He expects that his office, the county treasurer and other county finance officials will pitch in to evaluate the applications.
The county’s Economic Development Authority still needs to formally sign off on the program, but Rizer expects the group’s board to approve it as soon as Thursday.
Rural businesses get second, smaller pot
Supervisors also agreed Tuesday to devote $150,000 for rural businesses with no more than three employees, offering grants of $5,000 each for those companies. The county will reallocate some funding already set aside to help rural businesses to fund that program. Those companies will also be eligible to apply for the larger grants available to all businesses.
“We know that our rural tourism economy is really hurting right now, and it will be for a while,” Rizer said, noting that his department has also set up an online marketplace to help people buy directly from county farms and other agribusinesses. “The best we can do is try to minimize the damage and help with recovery when it’s time.”
Arlington County recently approved a similar grant program, albeit one that features a more in-depth application and review process and a bit less in funding – about $674,000 in all. Neighboring Fairfax County has opted for a $2.5 million loan program instead. All of Northern Virginia’s localities are weighing their options on Covid-19 relief as they also face intense financial stress in the crisis.
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—By Alex Koma, Loudoun Board Approves Coronavirus Grant Program For Small Businesses, Washington Business Journal, [Internet], Apr 22, 2020