[caption id="attachment_203542" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Small businesses will soon have the chance to tap into a $3 million program created by the Kent County Levy Court. The program requires businesses to demonstrate a financial loss in return for small grants. | PHOTO BY ERIC CROSSAN[/caption]
DOVER — In its first official use of America Rescue Plan Act funds, the Kent County Levy Court has approved a $5 million grant program to aid small businesses hit by the pandemic.The commissioners unanimously approved a measure Nov. 9 that would set aside $3 million for businesses with fewer than 100 employees and $2 million for hotels and event venues.That means at least 633 businesses would be able to qualify for direct aid, according to the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce. At least 50 businesses have closed in Kent County and the hotel industry has lost $1.5 million in revenue since the pandemic began.“This is excellent for small businesses, and thank you for getting this together so quickly,” Commissioner Jeffery Hall told the top business leaders who proposed the project. “I know one business in particular that I’m going to call tomorrow about this.”Grants will range between $50,000 to $100,000, with amounts capped depending on the size of the business. It would be open for three rounds of funding, starting in December and ending in February, although another round may be approved if there are funds left over.The CDCC has brought on Faw Casson, a Dover accountant consultant firm, to process the grant applications for Kent County Tourism and the CDCC. Pending review by either organization, the final recommendations will go to the Kent County Levy Court for approval.Faw Casson Supervisor Cassie Porter explained that there will be tiers for each size of business, with those with 50 employees capped at $50,000 while those with 100 employees capped at $100,000. The grants are specifically tied to percentage lost and the amount of revenue lost.For example, one company that lost $25,000, or 25% of revenue, would see a grant of $6,250. Another business with 30 employees that lost $200,000, or 27% of revenue, would qualify for a $54,000 grant, but the program caps awards to $50,000.“If we utilize these grants in this fashion, the hope is that we'll be able to help as many businesses as possible,” Porter explained. “Our goal is to get funds out on the street to as many businesses to help the businesses survive.”Kent County’s program builds off the application portal infrastructure created by the Delaware Division of Small Business,which has successfully implemented similar programs powered by CARES Act funding. “That will cut our administrative costs tremendously because we won’t be building our own portal,” CDCC President Judy Diogo said. “It will free up more money to the businesses instead of spending it on [the portal], and it’s making it simple for the business community as possible because they may already be familiar with it.”Kent County received $35.5 million in ARPA funding, and the small business and tourism grant program marks the first official use for it to date, according to county officials.Neither New Castle County or Sussex County have implemented a similar program — one without limits on what to spend the grant money on — yet to date. The New Castle County Council used CARES funding last winter to help restaurants winterize so they could remain open for business and has approved a general framework for e-commerce funding aid for small business from ARPA funds.Sussex County continues to wait for guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department on how to spend the ARPA funds, according to county spokesman Chip Guy.
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