Microbusinesses targeted in latest round of pandemic aid | News

As the pandemic enters its third year, thousands of businesses across the country have government assistance to thank for their ability to keep the lights on and keep people employed.

Still, there are some that have yet to receive any aid. A new state grant awarded to Kern County seeks to help those who have not yet had access to government aid. Aimed at businesses with fewer than five employees, county leaders see the grant as a valuable tool for the businesses that have fallen through the cracks.

“You think about business that have less than five employees and less than $50,000 in receipts, they are our smallest, most vulnerable businesses,” said Assistant County Administrative Officer Teresa Hitchcock. “For the economy to be really healthy, we need to ensure that those small businesses that were impacted by COVID have the support to get to pre-pandemic levels.”

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the roughly $1.2 million grant from the California Office of the Small Business Advocate to be used for the county’s smallest businesses. The county estimates 369 microbusinesses will be eligible for $2,500 grants made available by the state funding.

Although the money may not sound like a lot, experts say it will be a valuable cash-flow tool for small businesses who are struggling to make ends meet.

“This could actually work toward a down payment to leverage larger loan amounts,” said Kelly Bearden, director of the Cal State Bakersfield Small Business Development Center. “There are some attractive ($5,000) and $10,000 loans out there, so there’s an opportunity for them to even supply more money for their business.”

The county’s Employer’s Training Resource Department applied for the loan with the intention of helping those businesses that had been overlooked by previous aid programs like the Paycheck Protection Program. Of particular interest to ETR are businesses operated by women, minorities, veterans, individuals without documentation or with limited English proficiency and those businesses located in low-wealth or rural communities.

“With the Latino community, they have to trust you to understand what you’re doing and to be part of the organization,” said Norma Dunn, director of the Kern County Women’s Business Center.

In the last year, she said the center informed businesses of a previous grant program by going door to door in areas like Delano, Arvin and Lamont.

“Even though this funding was free of charge, they either didn’t know about it or didn’t apply,” she continued. “This particular grant is going to allow these people who missed the boat when it came to the California Relief Grant to get funding to help their small businesses.”

Grant applications will become available on Feb. 7.

To inquire about applying, Interested businesses are encouraged to contact either the Kern County Economic Development Foundation, CSUB’s Small Business Development Center, the county’s Women’s Business Center or Community Action Partnership of Kern.

“This will be a critical cash infusion to make sure that these companies are able to move forward in 2022,” said Kern Economic Development Council President and CEO Richard Chapman, “and be successful and bring jobs and wages into the economy, as well as tax revenues.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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