biz grants at flour girls

Nyshiema Stallings-Swain (left) learns more about Pasquotank County’s COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program while speaking with Debbie Malenfant (right), executive director of Elizabeth City Downtown Inc., at the Flour Girls bakery Friday morning.

More than 30 businesses have applied for Pasquotank County’s COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program, a number expected to grow before the July 10 deadline for applications.

The Pasquotank Board of Commissioners approved the program last month as a way to support small businesses affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic. The program is being funded with $250,000 of the $898,000 the county received in federal COVID-19 relief money.

Under the program’s rules, eligible small businesses could receive a grant of up to $2,500 to help make up some of the revenue they’ve lost during the pandemic, which is now entering its fourth month.

So far, 33 small businesses have applied for help through the program. Of the first 27 applications received late last week, 16 were from service-related businesses. Applicants included nail salons, barber shops, beauty shops, fitness establishments, a dog grooming business, transportation services, professional services and a tattoo studio.

Six of the first 27 applicants were from restaurants while the remaining five were retail establishments. Twenty-four of the first 27 applicants were from businesses located within Elizabeth City’s corporate limits.

“With a July 10 deadline that is still two weeks away, we have received more applications than I would have anticipated,” said County Manager Sparty Hammett. “We have also received a good mix of applications in terms of the type of businesses.”

To ensure businesses understand the program’s rules, Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. Director Deborah Malenfant led an information/help session at the Flour Girls Bakery in downtown Elizabeth City on Friday. A second session is scheduled for today from 9 a.m. to noon, also at the Flour Girls.

Malenfant said several small businesses owners received help with their applications on Friday and she expects more businesses owners to seek help today.

“We are there to answer any questions about the grant on a one-on-one basis,” Malenfant said. “We helped people fill out the applications. Some folks brought their information with them and we went through it and helped them fill out their information packet together.’’

Christian Lockamy, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission, is leading the county’s COVID-19 relief program and joined in the effort Friday. June Gibbs, a retired school guidance counselor, and Caitlin Davis, adjunct professor of business at Elizabeth City State University and a small business owner, also helped with the process.

Malenfant said any business owner interested in applying for a grant can come to the information session anytime between 9 a.m. and noon today.

“They don’t have to be there the whole time,” Malenfant said. “They don’t have to be there right at 9 a.m. We have made it open so people can come and go as their schedule allows.’’

Malenfant and Lockamy are also visiting businesses to provide individual help with the application process.

“I have been going out there and working with folks on their applications to make sure we get the documentation nailed down,” Lockamy said. “We want them to have the best shot at getting some funding. I have even had some of them come here” to the EDC office.

Some of the requirements to receive a grant include being a for-profit business with a “brick-and-mortar” presence in the county; having at least one employee; and having gross revenues of less than $2 million a year.

A service, restaurant or retail business must also show a revenue loss of at least 20 percent because of COVID-19. They also must be a business in an industry outlined by COVID-19-related executive orders issued by Gov. Roy Cooper during the pandemic.

To be considered for a grant, businesses must submit specific documentation, including a statement showing their monthly revenue for the three-month period between March 1, 2019 and May 31, 2019, and the three-month period between March 1, 2020 and May 31, 2020.

If more than 100 county businesses apply for grants, a scoring-criteria has been established to determine which businesses receive the maximum allowable grant of $2,500. A business that saw a revenue loss of 71 percent to 100 percent, for example, would be scored higher than one that lost less revenue. And a business mandated to close by one of Cooper’s executive orders would score higher that one not forced to completely close.

The county hopes to start cutting checks from the program around July 24.

Detailed program guidelines for the COVID-19 Small Business Program and grant applications are currently available at www.pasquotankcountync.org/covid19grants.

Printed guidelines and applications are also available at the EDC office, at Hammett’s office, at the Pasquotank County Library, at the EDCI office and at local small business development offices. For more information, call the EDC at 338-0169 or ECDI at 338-4104.