When asked about how dire the situation is for local businesses despite the recent relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the state, Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Danny Reber did not hold back. About a handful of businesses have already shuttered, and others, he says, are on the cusp of following them.
“Not everybody is going to survive this,” Reber said.
The city of Scotts Valley, for its part, will soon provide much needed aid to about 25 or so qualifying businesses. That’s thanks to the City Council’s decision at its April 7 meeting to use $250,000 of federal Covid-19 relief funding to administer a grant program that could open in June.
Those funds come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed last year by then-President Donald Trump. Included in that stimulus package was about $18.7 million in Community Development Block Grant funding intended to help communities weather the economic fallout of the pandemic.
There will be some restrictions on who can apply for the grants, said City Manager Tina Friend, but they will nonetheless be a positive development for the city’s businesses that are wary of taking on more loans. Friend said many businesses took advantage of federal, state and local loan programs such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program, “which is wonderful, but at a certain point, you reach your capacity on loans,” she said.
“To be able to access $10,000 in a grant, really can make a difference,” Friend said.
Reber echoed Friend, and said that while some businesses are willing to take on more loans—he highlighted the new Grow Santa Cruz County revolving loan program as an option for local businesses—many can’t afford to take on more debt.
“This is just a huge blessing when it was needed the most,” he said.
The opportunities for grant funding have been slim, but Reber said many Scotts Valley businesses have qualified for the capital thanks to the work of Chamber’s Covid-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, which brought together then-Scotts Valley Mayor Randy Johnson, current Mayor Derek Timm, Chamber board members and several local business owners. That group since the early months of the pandemic has held recurring meetings to gather information about those grant and loan opportunities and quickly help local business owners prepare and submit their applications.
The latest opportunity the Chamber is helping business owners navigate is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a federal program through the Small Business Administration that opened Monday.
But not all businesses that are struggling are restaurants, Reber said. Any business that depended on live events and tourism such as caterers, rental companies, music and entertainment venues have been out of business for the past 13 or so months. That included the Chamber itself, which funds a large portion of its operations through live events such as the Art, Wine and Beer Festival that will return this year.
Despite those struggles, Reber said, several businesses have still found ways to give back to the community, especially during the CZU Lightning Complex that further buried operations for many. Reber, among others, highlighted Greg Wimp, who owns Togo’s Sandwiches franchises throughout the county. One of his shops in Watsonville was “dead” during the pandemic, Reber said, but instead of laying off his employees he kept them on payroll and made them prepare sandwiches for fire victims.
“This year was rough but it warms my heart when [businesses are] hurting so bad that they’re stepping up and doing stuff for the community,” Reber said. “They’re going above and beyond even when they’re the ones who need help.”
The good news, Reber said, is that the upcoming June 15 date announced last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom as California’s official economic reopening goal is giving some businesses a “light at the end of the tunnel.”
“The businesses that have made it this far, they know they’ve got a little more to go,” he said.
The City Council on April 7 also authorized the city to use another $93,177 of federal Covid-19 relief funding to help bolster more scholarship opportunities and a new program with the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Cruz County’s Scotts Valley branch, the Joe and Linda Aliberti Clubhouse.
The new program, “Camp Scotts Valley,” will be held at the Scotts Valley Community Center in Skypark. Open to kids ages 6-18, Camp Scotts Valley will run weekdays, June 14 through Aug. 6, from 9am-5pm.
Registration for the program will open on May 10. Families who may need financial assistance are encouraged to apply.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Cruz County Clubhouses have been open and providing academic support for young during the Covid-19 pandemic, Friend said.
Interested families can be placed on a registration waitlist by calling the Joe & Linda Aliberti Clubhouse at 831-535-7017.
For information regarding registration, visit boysandgirlsclub.info.