By Carol Vaughn —
The Onancock town council after a public hearing Monday, Nov. 30, approved a resolution and several related motions about a $495,000 grant the town was awarded to help small businesses recover from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
No one from the public spoke at the hearing, which was held virtually.
The town council will be meeting electronically until further notice, it was announced at the council’s regular meeting Nov. 23.
The resolution authorizes Town Manager Matt Spuck to serve as grant manager for the Virginia Community Development Block Grant-funded project and forms a partnership agreement between the town and the Onancock Main Street Initiative to administer the grant.
Through the Small Business Recovery Assistance program, Onancock will help businesses meet long-term goals by adjusting to COVID-19 demands, according to a description on the town website.
“This grant will assist businesses in getting back up and running, and ideally help them retain existing staff, fill vacant positions, create new jobs, and become more efficient and resilient,” according to the description.
Details about the program are available in the town office and on the town website, www.onancock.com. Spuck said he plans to hold workshops for businesses to help them apply for the funds and comply with terms of the program.
The town has one year to distribute the funds, he said.
Businesses to qualify must be located in Onancock, be locally or regionally owned, have 20 or fewer employees, have been impacted by COVID-19, and provide local or regional services, among other requirements.
No duplication of benefits received from other sources of CARES Act funding is permitted.
The maximum benefit to an individual business is $15,000 to help it reopen and conduct business safely in light of COVID-19.
The amount includes up to $5,000 for retooling and technology-related activities and up to $10,000 in rent or mortgage relief.
Applications are expected to be available for businesses around mid-December, Spuck said.
“We are going to cast a very wide net. Any business that is licensed in the town of Onancock, we are going to strongly encourage to apply,” Spuck said.
Each business will be required to supply a Dunn’s number and a certificate of good standing from the State Corporation Commission with its application.
“We’re trying to service at least 30 businesses,” Spuck said, adding, “…We’re going to do all we know how to do to let this be known to any business, whether it’s operated in a home or operated with sticks and mortar, that’s inside the town limits of Onancock. We want anybody and everybody to take advantage of this.”
The council at the Nov. 23 meeting approved an adjusted appropriation of CARES Act funds received through Accomack County.
The adjustment reallocates money previously set aside to pay for employee sick leave and includes new business grants and utility subsidies.
In previous grants to small businesses using federal CARES Act funds, guidelines did not allow new businesses to qualify because businesses were required to show a drop in revenue of 15% from the past year.
In the adjusted appropriation, $10,000 is set aside for grants equal to 10% of the average monthly sales of the new business, with no grant exceeding $3,000.
Additionally, the adjusted appropriation includes $10,000 for a utility subsidy for water and sewer accounts with current payment plans.
The subsidy would pay off the balance on current payment plans.
Another $11,408 is set aside for a subsidy of $447.48 (or four minimum bills) each for residents whose income is at or under the 2020 federal poverty level and who have been negatively affected by COVID-19, with a total of up to 25 grants.
“If you look at the way we have used our COVID CARES money so far, we’ve cared for the town and its employees and our continuation of business — our visitors and our employees; we’ve taken care of our local businesses — we have distributed over $100,000 in grants to our local businesses; we have given reimbursement to those businesses who spent dollars on PPE that would never have been budgeted before.
“We also are now asking for grant monies for new businesses who have come into our town since COVID has become an issue for us, and now we are saying we’d like to be able to help those residents who probably most need help,” Spuck said.
The council unanimously approved the adjustments.