SANTA ANA, Calif.—Orange County microbusinesses, like street vendors and mom-and-pop shops, who began operating before 2020 and were “significantly” impacted by the COVD-19 pandemic can now apply for a one-time $2,500 grant until mid-March.
“These are the people that were left behind in those other funding opportunities, and we’re really trying to make an effort to ensure that they are first to get served under this grant,” Carma Lacy, director of Workforce and Economic Development for Orange County, told The Epoch Times.
The Microbusiness COVID-19 Relief Grant Program was created last year by California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate within the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
It aims to prioritize those micro-businesses in the state’s 58 counties who didn’t qualify for other pandemic era grants, such as the 1.2 million California businesses that received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program or additional funding through the CARES Act.
According to the California Grants Portal, the micro-business grant program’s total available funding is estimated at $50 million.
The state awarded Orange County with approximately $3.9 million.
In addition to the business’s start date and its hardships during the pandemic, applicants who made less than $50,000 in gross revenues pre-covid and had fewer than five full-time employees could qualify for the grant.
Moreover, the first-of-its-kind program will prioritize microbusiness owners who have “faced historical barriers in accessing capital” such as women, minorities, veterans, illegal immigrants, and low-income individuals, according to the website.
Once they’ve identified the priority population, Lacy said, the grant opportunities will be available to other microbusiness owners.
“We really want to get it in the hands of disadvantaged communities and underserved business owners,” she said.
While the microbusiness grant allows owners to purchase equipment, they could invest in capital, pay for licensing permits, or relieve any debt accrued during the pandemic, which Lacy deemed a more “flexible” grant program.
The grant recipients have until June 1, 2022, to use the funding and provide receipts for proof of purchases.
However, if the funds were not used for their intended purpose, recipients will not be penalized, according to Lacy.
County officials say they expect more than 10,000 businesses to apply during the four-week grant application period, but at least 1,400 will qualify as one of the targeted groups prioritized.
From Feb. 14 through March 15, business owners can apply at oconestop.com/grant-relief-programs for support.
“Over time, we’ve put out grant opportunities, received feedback, and improved every time,” Lacy said. “This is our opportunity to improve for those people that we’re not part of some of the earlier grants because they didn’t have enough staff, or they were a gig worker, or they are a home-based business, or a beautician or barber renting space that didn’t have the overhead cost, but they were still impacted.”