County taps federal funds to help small businesses

The Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved using some of the county’s $4,410,903 of CARES Act funding to create a Henry County CARES Act Small Business Grant Program. Pictured from left are Tommy Slaughter, vice chairman Debra Buchanan, Joe Bryant, Dr. David Martin and Ryan Zehr. 

By Brandon Martin

Following a public hearing, the Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday appropriated

$4,410,903 of CARES Act funding, some of which will be directed to the Henry County CARES Act Small Business Grant Program.

Under the program, Henry County businesses who have experienced a direct impact from the coronavirus (COVID-19) could qualify.

The businesses must have a current Henry County business license, be current on county taxes and employ 30 or fewer full time employees.

According to Henry County Administrator Tim Hall, places that employ 1-10 full time employees are eligible for $2,500 maximum and businesses with 11 to 30 employees can receive a maximum of $5,000.

Hall said the fund will start off with an initial $250,000, with the option to add more if demand dictates.

“I want to spend the money. I want to spend it correctly, but I want to spend the money,” Hall said. “We should never lose sight that it is taxpayer money. We will spend it judiciously.”

All uses of grant funds must be related to COVID-19, according to Hall. Some examples of ways businesses can use the funds are: marketing plan development and execution; e-commerce activities such as point-of-purchase software; website development; associated technology; rent and utilities; physical enhancements; replacement of spoiled products like food; accounting and some legal assistance, excluding filing for bankruptcies.

Hall said a committee has been set up to review applications for grants. Its’ members include Hall, Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner, Director of Finance Darrell Jones, Deputy Director of Finance Richard Stanfield, and a representative from the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

Applicants must provide the amount of COVID-19 loss in their business as of the day of the application and certify the claimed loss is based upon COVID-19.

Only one grant will be awarded per business. Sole proprietorships, LLCs or self-employed individuals are recognized as businesses. Any entity that has already received CARES Act funds from other programs will be considered only after all other applications.

In addition, Hall said there are a few other items that the overall $4.4 million could be used to fund.

One is to set up an emergency fund through social services where residents could apply for assistance in paying utility bills. Hall said it could include adding $200,000 to the already existing fund to pay for bills at Appalachian Power, a gas company or Public Service Authority bills.

Board chairman Jim Adams, of the Blackberry District, asked if the funds could be used to offset costs the PSA incurred by waiving online fees, which he said costs an average of $7,000 a month.

Hall said that he believed that use would be allowable, and noted that the county will pursue the idea.

He added a potential allocation of $130,000 to Henry County Public Safety for fire and rescue would help recover money that would have otherwise been obtained through fundraising.

The CARES Act funding can also be used to assist any town within the county’s jurisdiction. This could mean supplying the Town of Ridgeway with additional computers.

Hall said county staff also are looking into emergency pay for “frontline” workers who have spent most of their time working on COVID-19 related problems.

Overall, there is still uncertainty about what can or cannot be covered with the federal funds, Hall said, adding that to his understanding, the funds specifically cannot be used to replace lost revenue.










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