Though a Jan. 12 webinar about federal Covid-relief funding for local businesses was short and to the point, Scotts Valley City Councilman Randy Johnson still found time to look back on the early days of the pandemic.
“Does anyone remember spraying the mail that came in through the door?—all things that seem like a distant past,” he said, recalling when a county health official said the pandemic might last two years. “I kind of scoffed at that, but here we are, almost two years later.”
The under-23-minute presentation by the City of Scotts Valley about the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program was held in partnership with the Scotts Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Cruz Small Business Development Center and the Adams Ashby Group, a financial planning firm.
Local businesses have been through some rough times, Johnson commented, adding uncertainty can be even harder for owners to deal with than bad news.
“I mean, when you think about it, expenses never sleep,” he said. “You have worries about your employees, your family, was this business going to survive that you’ve been working towards and making happen for the last one, five, 10 years—and so forth.”
The funding was initiated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, flowed to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, then to California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, before arriving with the City of Scotts Valley, said Casey Estorga, the City’s administrative services director.
“That’s where I come in,” he said. “Me and my team will be cutting checks directly to Scotts Valley business owners.”
Companies that had brick-and-mortar locations in Scotts Valley and are up to date with permits and licenses are eligible.
Their business must have already been operating before March 2020, and a small business is defined as having 25 or fewer employees, including the owner.
Funds must go toward low- and moderate-income employees or business owners, such as jobs that weren’t eliminated.
Businesses can apply for up to $50,000 to cover rent, mortgage or utility costs from April 1, 2020-Dec. 31, 2021.
City Councilman Derek Timm said the City is grateful to the small businesses that held on.
“The City recognizes that you are the backbone of our community,” he said. “You’re what makes things work here. It’s been our focus for the last two years. We wanted to make sure that you survived because without you Scotts Valley doesn’t survive.”
Scotts Valley decided to fund the Chamber of Commerce after its funding dried up, and directed them to help even businesses who aren’t Chamber members, he added.
“The City took a risk,” Timm said. “In doing that we helped get out information on how businesses could get grants, how we could get PPP loans out. And then when it came time to get them forgiven, we were on top of that too.”
The Chamber’s Executive Director Danny Reber even went out and knocked on doors to make sure businesses got grant applications in on time, Timm said. The councilman also thanked Estorga for pushing through the red tape at the state level to secure the funding.
Scotts Valley has retained two small business consultants to assist with the program: Paul Ashaby, principal at the Ashby Adams Group, as its CDBG consultant, and Alex Pedersen, the operations advisor for the Santa Cruz Small Business Development Center.
To apply, businesses should visit bit.ly/3KqSRnS, and a Santa Cruz Small Business Development Center (SBDC) official will be tasked with getting in touch to discuss the completed application.
Applications are due by Jan. 28 at 5pm.
Estorga said the plan is to divvy up the money between as many businesses as possible.
Grants are scheduled to be awarded in February and March.
One attendee asked about what happens if a business had to relocate during the pandemic.
Estorga said the City would have to work with SBDC to answer that question.
Another attendee asked if applying the following day was too soon.
“Absolutely not,” Estorga replied. “The application is live on the City’s website.”