County proposes COVID-19 recovery grants for small business

As businesses across Santa Rosa County are forced to close their doors due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, the county is looking to hand out $100,000 in grants for small businesses. 

The COVID-19 economic hardship grant program will be voted on by county commissioners during their March 26 meeting. 

If approved, the program would offer $2,500 grants to businesses impacted negatively by the COVID-19 outbreak. Unlike community bridge loans offered through the Small Business Development Center, these grants would not require repayment. 

“While the extent of the economic impacts of COVID-19 are not yet known, it is clear that small businesses in Santa Rosa County will be affected,” county staff wrote. “It is staff’s assessment that in this unprecedented time of social distancing and mandatory closures, the need to keep small businesses afloat is crucial.”  

The program would replace the county’s current StRIVE Grant cycle. StRIVE grants are designated to assist businesses in sprucing up their facades and signage to improve business. 

Two StRIVE grant applications already submitted are set to be approved for $5,000 each Thursday. Mike’s Garden in Gulf Breeze applied to replace all windows and beautify the exterior, and Sport & Wheat CPA in Pace is seeking to install shutters, gutters and a handicap ramp. 

The remaining $40,000 from the StRIVE Grant program will be rolled into the COVID-19 response fund. An additional $60,000 is being requested from the Economic Development Office’s portion of the electric franchise fee. 

If approved, staff would develop a matrix for applications to be approved by the board of county commissioners. 

The meeting is scheduled for March 26 at 9 a.m. in Milton. Due to social distancing recommendations, the meeting will not have a public forum. Instead members of the public can submit feedback via a public input form at Santarosa.fl.gov/formcenter/boccadmin-21/public-input-form-95. Submitted comments will be read into the record. 

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