The Board of Orange County Commissioners approved a loan and grant program on Tuesday that would allocate county funds to local businesses struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program will award up to $5,000 in grants or up to $20,000 in loans to eligible small businesses across the county. The former will not need to be repaid, while the latter are meant to be repaid over the course of five years, with no payments being necessary over the first six months.
“This is an emergency measure that we’re taking to assist businesses with loans and grants, and my recommendation as the manager is that we consider this under the current situation that we’re in," County Manager Bonnie Hammersley said.
Funding for the program will come from sales tax revenue that was originally budgeted into the county's Small Business Loan Program, which now totals $300,000.
“The eligibility requirements are relatively straightforward,” Deputy County Manager Travis Myren said. “They must be an Orange County business, one year of operations, for-profit and (have) a profit and loss statement proving that they were profitable prior to the coronavirus epidemic, so that there’s some demonstrable effect that their business has had because of the coronavirus."
These grants and loans will not be allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rather, a committee will evaluate and prioritize which businesses are most in need based on their applications, and then distribute funding accordingly. They will discuss more details like this in upcoming meetings.
The county commissioners held their meeting online to follow public health guidelines discouraging mass gatherings. The commissioners spoke to each other via Zoom, a video conferencing platform.
There were some technical difficulties: video feeds occasionally cut out, and there had to be pauses made to allow for choppy audio to smooth itself out. However, the commissioners were still overwhelmingly positive regarding the progress they were making despite these difficult circumstances.
“I think this, for all practical purposes, went very smoothly,” Commissioner Earl McKee said. “Yeah, it was a little bumpy, but I think if we do it a few times, we’ll all get the hang of it.”
There is uncertainty as to how long their meetings will have to be held remotely, but the county commissioners said they will continue to meet despite these difficulties.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.