By Stefanie Jackson – Small businesses in Cape Charles and the surrounding areas still may apply for COVID-19 relief funds from an $845,000 Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) grant that has been only about half spent and expires Oct 1.
“Certainly, the last thing we want to do is return the money or to let it go if we have businesses that are in need,” said Karen Zamorski, director of Cape Charles Main Street, the nonprofit administering the grant.
Businesses do not need to be located in the town of Cape Charles to be eligible.
Small businesses in the following ZIP codes qualify: Cape Charles, 23310; Cheriton, 23316; Eastville, 23347; Capeville, 23313; and Townsend, 23443.
Neither must businesses have a brick-and-mortar presence; owners of home-based small businesses also qualify.
The maximum amount an individual may receive from the DHCD grant is $15,000.
Small business owners who have received federal Payment Protection Program or PPP funding also may receive DHCD grant funds, but the money cannot be used to cover the same types of expenses, Zamorski noted.
PPP funds were mainly provided to cover payroll, but the DHCD grant is provided to reimburse business expenses such as rent or mortgage payments and the cost of technology or retooling businesses to be compatible with COVID-19 guidelines.
For example, the money could be spent on cleaning and sanitation supplies, plexiglass barriers, face masks, and touchless point-of-sale systems.
Businesses must have been established before March 12, 2020, and expenditures to be reimbursed must have been made after April 1, 2020.
Qualifying expenses include up to six months of rent or mortgage payments for the business.
Home business owners whose homes are mortgaged can be reimbursed for up to 25% of their principal and interest for six months.
Any business that is run from home instead of a store or an office building – such as landscaping – is considered a home business.
Watermen may apply to receive relief on their home or boat mortgages and slip fees, Zamorski added.
An applicant requesting reimbursement for rent or mortgage payments must supply a copy of the current lease agreement or six months of mortgage statements and canceled checks or other proof of payments.
An applicant must supply the business’ Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number, a nine-character number issued by the major business credit bureau of the same name, which gives a business a unique identifier.
Any small business owner who doesn’t have a DUNS number can get one online in minutes, Zamorski said.
The process is explained in the list of frequently asked questions accompanying the application, and Cape Charles Main Street staff members are available to answer any additional questions.
Cape Charles Main Street has simplified the application process to be accessible to everyone.
Completing an application is “really is as easy as it comes,” said Chris Marshall, owner of Cape Charles Brewing Company.
He noted the application is “a couple pages,” unlike other grants that may require 10, 50, or even 100 pages of paperwork to be completed.
Some of the big-ticket items on which Cape Charles Brewing Company spent its grant funds included picnic tables and patio heaters, which enabled the restaurant to adhere to COVID-19 distancing guidelines and serve diners outside throughout the winter.
“When something like this happens, you’ve got to figure out a new way of doing business,” Marshall said.
Kathleen Glaser, owner of Alyssa House Bed and Breakfast, admitted that when she first heard about the COVID-19 grant opportunity, she ignored it because she believed “it’s going to be one of those things that takes like three days to fill out the paperwork.”
But her neighbor, Cape Charles Town Councilman Paul Grossman, encouraged her to look at the application, which took only two hours to complete, Glaser said.
She had one question about the application, which Zamorski answered promptly.
Glaser was thankful the town made the effort to help its small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and that town officials were “proactive” about making sure she applied for the grant.
She filled out the application and hand-delivered it to the Cape Charles Main Street office the same day; she received a check in the mail a couple weeks later.
Glaser used some of the money she received to temporarily replace her large dining room table with two smaller tables, plus a table for her porch, to create separate areas for guests so they could stay separated at mealtimes in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.
She also purchased various cleaning and sanitation supplies and other items needed to keep her business in compliance.
Suzanne Golibart, owner of Periwinkles Consignment Boutique, agreed the application was “super simple” and that Zamorski was accessible to answer questions.
Golibart received her money in February, which was “an extremely crucial time for me and has helped me retain my employees and keep the shop open every day.”
Entering her ninth year in business, she now feels “extremely optimistic about the coming season for our business in Cape Charles.”