In July, Orange County announced its first phase of Bounce Back small business grants aimed to provide relief to local small businesses and non-profits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Next week, the second phase of the program will open to local applicants.
Two phases of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act have provided Orange County with $6.4 million to provide economic assistance to local government, businesses, individuals, families and community agencies and nonprofit organizations suffering amid the current public health crisis.
In the first wave of Bounce Back grants, the Orange County Economic Development Office awarded $277,725 in grants to 39 businesses and non-profit organizations, according to Orange County Economic Development Project Manager Rose Deal.
“We were pleased with the interest we received in the grant program and were excited to be able to provide much needed relief to various organizations throughout Orange County who have experienced business disruption from COVID-19,” Deal said. “While we know these grants could never replace the loss of revenue businesses have experienced, it was our hope that the funds would provide short-term relief to assist them in remaining open and operational far into the future.”
Deal said the first wave of funding helped businesses from sole-proprietors to operations with up to 49 employees.
“We were able to help businesses from professional consultants, to retail store fronts and restaurants, advocacy groups and non-profit medical facilities,” she said.
In some cases, the funds helped businesses and organizations meet their financial obligations amid shuttered doors. In others, grants offset the costs of enhanced safety measures to protect customers and staff. Others applied for funds to help modify their operations into Covid-compliant business models.
Shannon Horton at Horton Vineyards in Barboursville, said the winery is using its funds to open an outdoor space to keep serving customers safely throughout the fall and winter.
“We usually would just utilize our indoor tasting room space in the colder weather, but this grant will allow us to expand our space outside to keep social distancing protocols while keeping our customers warm during the colder weather.”
Horton plans to open up a balcony space that had previously been unavailable to tasting customers. Grant funds will construct a ramp to the balcony and upgrade railings to meet safety requirements for patrons. Other funds will be used to purchase tables and chairs and freestanding heaters.
“We’re still doing traditional things—like tastings and bottle and glass sales, but we’re looking at new opportunities during the pandemic,” Horton said, noting the vineyard conducts virtual tastings and other online events.
“We’ve been talking about what we’re going to do in the winter, because this isn’t going away,” she said. “I know it looks like this big building out here, but our warehouse is on site and there’s a fully functioning winery here. The actual space open to our customers is pretty small. This balcony space is a neat place we’ve n ever taken advantage of and will open up part of the building we’ve never used before.”
Grateful for the grant, Horton said it also is important to use it to purchase equipment from local vendors and suppliers.
“We want to spend the money locally so we all can reap the benefits of this grant,” she said. “If we buy locally, the businesses we purchase from can benefit from the grant, too. We’re all in this together.”
At the Gordonsville Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum, grant funds were used to help Historic Gordonsville Inc. pay bills and install additional safety measures to protect visitors, volunteers and staff.
HGI President Derek Brookman said funds helped the museum pay bills during the months when it was closed to paying visitors. Once the museum reopened last month, it had installed a plexiglass window at the ticket counter, and located hand-sanitizer stations throughout the three-floor museum. It also purchased other safety-related materials and equipment to safely reopen to visitors, he said.
“The Bounce Back grant really helped us catch up, because we rely on tour fees and donations,” Brookman said.
While being closed to the public reduced the museum’s revenue stream, it allowed the organization to redirect existing funds to some much-needed repairs. Originally, the Exchange Hotel was scheduled to be part of the Dolley Madison Garden Club’s Historic Garden Week tour. By not purchasing additional gift shop items for sale anticipated visitors, the museum instead could spend those funds on essential maintenance.
“It’s an old, historic building. When you fix one thing, you find another thing needs fixing,” he said. “This grant has been really great.”
The application period for the second round of Bounce Back grants opens Monday, Oct. 5, and closes Monday, Oct. 19, at 11:59 p.m.
The program offers forgivable grants up to $8,000 to qualified businesses and organizations. Similar to the first round of funding, the
Community Investment Collaborative (CIC), a non-profit organization based in Charlottesville, will administer the program developed by Orange County.
Deal said interested business owners and organizations with 0 to 100 employees are encouraged to start the grant process immediately by completing the required online interest form at https://forms.gle/cRTNq8TaeqxnfCDv9. Staff will utilize the interest forms to communicate directly with businesses and organizations regarding the grant application.
To be eligible, businesses must be based in the county, current on local taxes and must show a loss or expenditure increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses located within the Town of Gordonsville or the Town of Orange should refer to each town’s respective grant program. Those businesses who received funding in the first round of Bounce Back grants are eligible for additional funding, but only for other business disruption expenses not covered by their first allocation.
For additional information on the program, visit www.thinkorangeva.com/covid19-resources or contact Deal at 672-1238.
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