Fairfax County approves $25M small business relief fund
Eligible small businesses and nonprofits could receive $10k to $20k apiece
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during its Tuesday meeting approved the establishment of a $25 million small business and nonprofit relief grant program for local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am very excited about this program — the first of its kind in Fairfax County,” Board Chairman Jeffrey McKay said. “Our hope is that these grants will help small businesses and nonprofits be able to emerge from these difficult times by retaining employees and preparing 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.”
Eligible businesses and nonprofits based in the county will be able to apply for the new Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (Fairfax RISE) grants beginning in early June. The Fairfax RISE grant program will be funded by a portion of the $200 million in federal stimulus funding the county received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Under the program guidelines, Fairfax County will allocate $10,000 to businesses with one to 10 employees, $15,000 to businesses with 11 to 25 employees and $20,000 to businesses with 26 to 49 employees. One-third of the funding — $7.25 million — will be set aside for companies that typically have trouble receiving funding, including women- and minority-owned businesses.
“I appreciate that because I was talking to a Vietnamese American leader in the community last week who said that their businesses don’t know about these grant opportunities,” Vice Chairman Penelope A. Gross said during the meeting. “So we need to make sure that we know where the holes are, and fill those holes, by getting the information out there.”
A concern from several board members was ensuring that adequate outreach is made to women- and minority-owned businesses about the program to make them aware of the grant opportunities.
“We’ll be doing significant outreach and will be consistently updating the board not only on outreach, but feedback we receive. That will be ongoing,” Rebecca Moudry, director of the Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives, said during the meeting. “We’re very committed to multilingual outreach as well.” She added that county staff will be able to participate in the administrative tasks that running this grant program will take — including working through application submissions with small businesses and awarding grants.
And although Supervisor Rodney L. Lusk, who represents the Lee District, said that the funding will be a good tool to help small businesses survive the pandemic, he fears that $25 million won’t be enough. The original proposal suggested that the county could allocate up to $30 million for the program.
“I think the number is too low,” Lusk said during the meeting. “We recognize that each $5 million will help roughly 420 companies, so what we’re basically saying with the $25 million — and not going to $30 million — is that we’ll help 420 less companies. At some point we’re going to really have to think about how we’re going to help our companies expand and grow. We’re going to lose some companies.”