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EDA awards COVID-19 small business grants

The city’s Economic Development Authority has awarded 200 grants worth more than $723,000  as part of its COVID-19 small business grant program since it started in June — more than $523,000 coming from the CARES Act and another $200,000 coming from the Obici Healthcare Foundation.

EDA commissioners at their Dec. 9 meeting got a breakdown of which businesses have received grants through the program since it began distribution in June, when 85 businesses received $190,500, with amounts of $3,700 for 15 businesses, $2,700 for 27 businesses, $1,700 for 32 businesses and $700 for 11 businesses.

Eighty city businesses received a combined $400,000 — $5,000 each — as part of the EDA’s grant program in September. It awarded 92 grants in all, using the $200,000 it received from the Obici Healthcare Foundation and another $237,048 from the CARES Act, with 80 receiving the $5,000 maximum grant award, and another 12 getting amounts ranging from about $125 to just over $4,500.

Acting Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes, who had served as economic development director until his new appointment became effective Nov. 12 — Gregory Byrd now serves as acting director of economic development — broke down the grant distribution by type of business and location.

The top categories of city businesses receiving grants in September included restaurants (24), retail (19), healthcare/medical (19) and beauty (15). The location of the businesses receiving the grant were nearly evenly split between downtown (33) and the central part of the city (32), which represent the ring around the downtown area. There were 23 North Suffolk businesses receiving grants, with two home-based businesses and two rural-located businesses also getting grants.

In the third round of grant applications for October, 17 of the 23 grants were for $5,000, with all of them worth more than $95,000 and coming entirely from CARES Act money. Healthcare/medical businesses, retail and restaurant businesses accounted for 15. Nine of the businesses were from North Suffolk, seven downtown, five in the central part of the city and two were home-based businesses.

For city brick-and-mortar businesses to qualify for the grant, they must have experienced losses in operating hours, revenue, experienced staffing reductions and/or had additional expenses because of COVID-19 safety measures resulting from the temporary restrictions on restaurants, recreational, entertainment, gatherings and non-essential retail. The businesses that sought the grant had to employ 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees.

Home-based businesses could only receive grants for pandemic-related supplies.

The EDA first approved the new small business grant program in June.

Hughes said the EDA promoted the program through news releases, and paid for ads on social media as well as the Suffolk News-Herald and Virginian-Pilot.

EDA’s commissioners voted unanimously to accept the money from the foundation and more than $237,000 in CARES Act money.

Hughes, responding to Commissioner B.J. Willie, said businesses could ask for grant awards multiple times if they qualified for it.

“I think what we saw in some were those that have very significant, regular, occurring expenses, that may be in a newer facility, hitting that $5,000 in rent was not a problem,” Hughes said. “There are some that were probably be exhausted toward the end, and some, it was difficult to continue to find expenses, especially as we tailed off into the October timeframe.”