County responds to small business needs with Fairfax RISE

By Grace Aspinall:

July marked the distribution of grants funded and overseen by Fairfax County to assist as many small businesses as possible that have been deflated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the grant administrator has been processing approximately 100 applications a day.

On July 14, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted a $46 million addition to the original $25 million Fairfax RISE (Relief Initiative to Support Employers) grant program. The grants will benefit about 4,000 of the 6,281 applicants for the funds while the first set of funding planned to benefit 2,400 businesses.

No new applicants can apply for or receive the additional funding because the county will pull from the existing grant applicants. The additional funding will come from the Fairfax County portion of the federal CARES Act funds.

Once the applications were certified using a set of standard documentation proving eligibility, a lottery determined the order of processing with an initial screening on June 18 and notifications were sent to the applicants on June 24. The first set of grants were deposited during the week of July 13 and the schedule anticipated the project to be finalized by August. The local business community has related very positive feedback. Even those not selected were appreciative of the efforts the county is making to assist small businesses.

“I am very excited about this program – the first of its kind in Fairfax County,” said Fairfax County Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “Our hope is that these grants will help small businesses and nonprofits emerge from these difficult times, retain employees, and be prepared to grow in the future. We want to support the many small businesses and nonprofits that are crucial to the Fairfax County community and economy.” The types of businesses earmarked for the grants are considered a major contribution to the county economy and often encounter difficulties when seeking financing.

The Fairfax Board of Supervisors established the grant program, Fairfax RISE, on May 12, 2020, when they outlined the criteria for a business to receive funds and began accepting applications under the leaderships of Scott Sizer, Department of Economic Initiatives. The grants will be distributed within Fairfax County and the cities of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton for businesses that have been in operation for at least one year, were open on March 2, 2020, and have been negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The funds, which do not need to be repaid by grantees, will be distributed as follows: $10,000 grants for 1-10 employees, $15,000 grants for 11-25 employees, and $20,000 grants for 26-49 employees. Guidelines set by the county include a minimum of 30% funding for minority-owned, women-owned, and veteran-owned businesses aimed to provide a local solution to our local community.

Sizer presented an overview of the status of Fairfax Rise to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at the Economic Initiatives Committee meeting on June 16, 2020. He said that 95% of the applications were from businesses. Applications included 60% from establishments identified as women, minority and veteran owned.

Employee wages, benefits and other compensation are several of the proposed uses of each grant. In addition, rent, inventory, other critical expenses and equipment have been established as possible uses for the grant funding. The monies may not be used to start a new business or to pay off debts while closing the business.

In addition, Rachel M. Flynn, Deputy County Executive said, “A total of 54 microloans has been approved and disbursed to applicants, for a combined loan amount of $1,025,000. This represents 45% of the total available microloan funding amount. The average loan amount is approximately $19,000 (the maximum available loan amount is $20,000).”

Fairfax County efficiently and promptly addressed the needs of many small business within the county and has already received a wave of gratitude from the local residents.

Grace Aspinall is a technical writer/editor and campaigns for local, state and national Democrats in every election. She lives in Clifton and contributes a monthly blog to Her Nexx Chapter.


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