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County increases business aid
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Additional aid is on the way for some local businesses suffering during the pandemic after an increase to Stanislaus County’s Business Grant Program was approved by the Board of Supervisors this month. 

Supervisors on Oct. 13 approved $5.4 million in additional CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funding for the grant program, which originally consisted of $10 million first approved in July. The newly-adjusted $15.4 million in business revitalization and economic development support funding will be distributed through Valley First Credit Union to qualifying businesses and will allow those with applications scoring 65 percent or higher to receive grant money.

The previously-approved CARES Act funding limited grant awards to business applications scoring 72 percent or higher. A total of 1,333 applications were received for the grant program during the application period of July 31 through Aug. 28, and 303 of those businesses were able to complete their applications thanks to the assistance of community navigators from six local organizations throughout Stanislaus County. 

District 3 Supervisors Terry Withrow said the navigators are a great example at the County responding to feedback that more can be done for disadvantaged communities.

“These navigators that we had out there did great work to go out there and try...and there were 303 businesses that were reached that just wouldn’t have been reached otherwise,” he said. “61 percent of these awards are going to businesses that are in disadvantaged communities, and again, we’re doing all we can to try and reach into these communities. We’ve had some great partners in this.”

Applications were scored based on criteria including prior business health, how much the business has been impacted by COVID-19 and intended use of funds, among other factors. Of the received applications, 1,075 businesses were eligible for funding and 673 scored above 65 percent. These 673 businesses, 12 of which are considered medium or large, will receive grant funding up to $25,000 for small businesses (up to 50 full-time employees) or up to $50,000 for medium to large businesses (50 and over full-time employees). Included in that group are 232 additional local businesses which did not score high enough under the previous funding, but will now receive support thanks to the $5.4 million increase.

This is the second round of funding Stanislaus County has made available to help businesses struggling during the pandemic; in April, the Small Business Relief Fund was established and provided grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses with 50 employees or fewer. In total, $3 million in CARES funding and an additional $150,000 in community contributions were distributed to 344 businesses.

Prior to the increase in Business Grant Program funding, the 441 businesses scoring 72 percent or higher consisted of restaurants, personal care/salons, retail, medical locations, construction/architecture, fitness centers and clubs, to name a few. The sectors that received the most funding were restaurants (84 businesses) and salons (103 businesses).

In Stanislaus County District 2, which includes Turlock, Denair and Keyes, the second-highest number of businesses were approved with 91. District 4 which includes central Modesto had the most at 175. There were 270 applications from low-income areas and 171 from outside of low-income areas. Businesses scoring 65 percent or higher who now also qualify for the grant program have been notified by email, according to the County.

“I thought this was one of the most outstanding jobs of outreach we have done, getting folks in the community and getting down to essentially the neighborhood level, the street level...I think the process and the way it came out really speaks volumes,” District 2 Supervisor Vito Chiesa said. “...I think if you look at the restaurants and the personal care, the people that were grossly affected by this and had to shut their business for the time being, I’m glad to see they scored well and they’re at the top of the list.”

Moving forward, Stanislaus County Workforce Development will send approval and denial letters via email to all applicants. Grant awardees will be required to sign agreements that will allow Workforce Development to receive data on the economic impact of the grant, as well as, assuring the County that grant funding will be used to assist the business with the impacts of the COVID-19 emergency.