OC Small Businesses Grab New Round of COVID-19 Relief Funds

August 6, 2020 Updated: August 6, 2020

Small businesses in Orange County, California, have lost no time in applying for a second round of local relief funding for commercial enterprises impacted by COVID-19.

The application period for the second round of the county’s Layoff Aversion Support Fund Program opened Aug. 3 and was scheduled to run through Aug. 6—but the window slammed shut early when the number of applications hit the limit, according to the Orange County Workforce Development Board (OCWDB).

The Orange County One-Stop Center application website crashed from an overwhelming amount of traffic. It was a repeat of the first round of relief funding in May, when applications shut down within an hour.

“The funding is designed to help small businesses prevent layoffs,” Carma Lacy, OCWDB director of workforce and economic development, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“The funding may be used to purchase items such as personal protection equipment that will allow companies to keep their employees working and businesses open.”

The COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Support Program offered up to $10,000 in grant funds for eligible businesses with 500 or fewer employees. In order to qualify, businesses had to be able to demonstrate a need for support due to the impact of COVID-19, pay employees minimum wage or more, and be “in good standing with the State of California and up to date with their state Unemployment Insurance taxes (UI).”

The newly released funds are expected to be awarded beginning August 31, the OCWDB told The Epoch Times. About $256,000 remained available to support small businesses, after $444,000 out of the original $700,000 Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act funds received from the California Employment Development Division (EDD) had been awarded in May.

According to the OCWDB, 69 businesses were awarded funding in the first round of economic relief benefits. The OCWDB anticipates between 25 to 50 businesses receiving benefits in the second round. The money can be used to address “COVID-19-related effects” on a business and its employees, the website states, but cannot be used to pay rent or employee wages.

The website stated applications would be considered on a “first-come, first-served basis.” The process was scheduled to remain open until 50 applications had been received, and another 80 had been placed on the waiting list.

“This funding is intended to help local small businesses mitigate layoffs and adhere to ‘social distancing’ provisions established by state and federal public health entities,” Orange County officials said in a July 31 press release.

The local Layoff Aversion Support Program mirrors the Small Business Grant Relief Program launched on June 22, which provided up to $10,000 grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act fund, a $2 trillion federal economic relief package released on March 27.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents south Orange County’s Fifth District, announced in a July 31 statement that her district had awarded its allotted $14.5 million in CARES Act support to nonprofit organizations and small businesses in the region.

Bartlett said the allotment helped support more than 1,400 businesses in south Orange County.

“So many small businesses that serve as the backbone of our economy have suffered significant financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bartlett said. “My goal was to develop a program that would provide financial support to those businesses and get funds into their hands as quickly as possible.”