Charles County Government Building

The Charles County Government Building in La Plata

A $2.5 million Charles County small business relief grant program has been announced, designed to supply local businesses with grants in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The county government recently received the money for the grant program through the federal CARES Act distribution. The Charles County Economic Development Department will administer the program.

Grants of up to $5,000 will be available to businesses that employ up to four people. Businesses that employ a minimum of five and no more than 75 full-time employees are eligible to apply for up to $10,000 in funding. Businesses that are agriculture and aquaculture related already have $500,000 committed to them.

“Assisting our local businesses is a top priority to this Board of Commissioners,” Commissioners’ President Reuben B. Collins II (D) said in a press release. “Each commissioner is committed to providing resources to help businesses with losses due to business interruptions or to expenses related to reopening safely.”

Expenditures such as inventory, payroll, rent and utilities may be addressed by the businesses using funds from the relief grant. Other costs, such as personal protective equipment, signage, barriers and other items protecting employees and customers from the virus may be used with grant money as well. The funds are intended to address expenses occurring from March 1 through Dec. 30.

Economic Development Director Darréll Brown said that while developing criteria for the grant, the department wanted to give businesses the ability to use the money in a manner that meets their current needs.

“Each business, each industry is different. Even the businesses that have been opened during this crisis had challenges, including revisiting their operations and adjusting their business models,” Brown said. “It’s not just about the losses; it’s about the extra expenses, too.”

Businesses that are headquartered in Charles County, for-profit and have been in operation for at least one year as of May 2020 are eligible for grant money. The businesses must also be able to provide evidence of financial disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses may be sole proprietors and independent contractors without W2 employees. Agriculture and aquaculture related businesses meet the previously listed eligibility requirements, including the difference in the grant amount for the number of people employed. Qualified businesses may include farms and farm stores, agritourism enterprises, equestrian operations, value-added operations and enterprises engaged in harvesting seafood.

Bonnie Grady, president and CEO of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is pleased to learn about the program. Grady said the program is a nice continuation of the emergency relief provided earlier through the small business loan program.

“These grants will make it possible for businesses that are already struggling to be provided relief without incurring additional financial stress,” Grady said. “While we have not seen the application for the grants, it would be our hope that it is a simple process and the grants could be awarded expeditiously.”

Grady said the chamber appreciates everything the economic development department is doing to support the business community during this difficult time. She said she appreciates the partnership the department has with the chamber in helping the economy stabilize.

“I am encouraged by the criteria that was applied for businesses to apply and the uses for which the grant was intended,” Grady said. “I would encourage every small business to apply that is in need.”

Twitter: @RVollandIndy

Twitter: @RVollandIndy