While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many areas of life, it has been especially hard on small and local businesses who were forced to shut their doors in March.
In the following weeks and months, expenses piled up while revenue ceased and employees awaited the opportunity to return to work.
With funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Camden County is lending a hand.
Camden County officials and small business advocates met in Collingswood earlier today to announce the official beginning of the Camden County CARES Small Business Grant Program.
According to Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr, the county received $88 million from the federal government through the CARES Act, money the freeholder board is allotting to businesses most in need.
While Camden County CARES is meant to help small and local businesses, $20 million is also available for other struggling businesses.
“We hope to process these applications and get money into the hands of Camden County’s small business owners quickly, so that these funds can immediately be used to maintain and stabilize their operations,” said Cappelli.
“We expect to see significant interest in this program due to the pandemic’s widespread impact on the local economy.”
The grant program website went live the day of the announcement in Collingswood; its first three hours saw more than 900 applications.
Grant funds will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the freeholder board, but businesses that have not yet received federal support during the pandemic will be prioritized.
Businesses must meet four qualifications in order to apply and receive funding, with much of the detail of a business’ operations specific to the prior year.
“For starters, your business revenue has to have been negatively affected by the pandemic.” Cappelli explained. “Also, your business has to have been located in Camden County since Jan. 1 of last year. Third, your business has 25 or fewer employees and lastly, the business earned less than $5 million in total revenue during 2019.”
The grant awards are based on total 2019 revenue, according to county officials, with businesses that earned less than $25,000 able to receive grants up to $2,500. Businesses that earned more than $100,000 during 2019 will receive the maximum allocation of $10,000.
Yolanda Deaver, owner of Prissy Chic Salon in Camden, spoke during the press conference of her gratitude for county assistance during tough times.
“Big companies might be able to sustain a prolonged downturn, but small businesses like mine cannot,” she noted. “This grant has the potential to level the playing field for entrepreneurs like me.
“We’ve had to limit the number of customers we see in a day, and people are still afraid to go outside and get sick. This funding could be the difference between whether my business stays open or not.”