State rolls out new small business relief program

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    By Clayton Chaney
    Staff Writer

    On Dec. 15, at a work session held by the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), the BoCC heard from Region 9 Economic Development Executive Director Laura Lewis Marchino in regard to a new Small Business Relief (SBR) program being introduced by the state.

    The state has made $35.15 million available to local businesses, with 10 percent of the program funds reserved for high-need counties with a population less than 100,000. The funds will only be awarded to counties that are in Level Red: Severe Risk of the state’s COVID-19 dial. 

    Small businesses in the state and all around the country have been struggling with capacity limitations and closures since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic back in March.

    Marchino explained that the county is not required to distribute the funds and that another local agency could apply to distribute the funds. She went on to note that agencies with preexisting processes for distributing COVID-19 relief funds can use the same process for this grant. 

    Marchino noted that applications for the grant are due by Jan. 8, 2021, and that the county will only have 21 days to distribute the funds, meaning that grants would be awarded to businesses by mid-February. 

    Marchino explained that only a selective group of businesses will be eligible for the grants. These businesses include restaurants, bars, caterers, movie theaters and recreation centers. 

    Businesses must also be in compliance with local health orders and restrictions in order to receive funds. Along with this, the state also has other requirements that businesses have to meet in order to receive a grant. These requirements include a commitment to operate for the next six months, have less than $2.5 million in revenue and have reported a minimum of a 20 percent revenue loss compared to 2019 or opened between Jan. 1 and March 26.

    Marchino went on to explain that the grants awarded to businesses will range anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000. 

    “These are very small grants for businesses that have had capacity-related issues,” Marchino added. 

    Commissioner Ronnie Maez brought up the concern if the grants will be noncommitment grants and if businesses will have to file forgiveness later on. 

    Marchino clarified that the only thing businesses may be required to do is fill out a W-2 tax form, as the grants will be taxable. 

    Maez pointed out that since the grants will be taxable, funds awarded to business may actually be less than $3,000.

    Marchino then commented, “I guess the only good thing is if the business is not making money, their taxes will be a lot less.”

    Maez added, “We need to get the businesses everything they can get; some is better than nothing, but sometimes you got to wonder if they’re prolonging a slow death or not with some of these businesses. I think it’s more important we get going and get open again.”

    It was then discussed that Commissioner Alvin Schaaf and County Administrator Scott Wall would fulfill the role of awarding grants to businesses in the county. 

    As of press time Wednesday, applications for businesses to receive funding were not yet available. 

    Marchino mentioned during the meeting that, given the amount of the grants, she suspects that the applications will not be extensive.