Third round of county business grants planned

After hearing from business owners struggling through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors decided to offer a third round of grants. 

Two previous rounds yielded only 11 applicants for funding, but Andy Wade, the county’s economic development director, said there are a number of reasons why interested business owners may have decided not to apply. 

Some may not have believed that the money really doesn’t have to be repaid, while others didn’t want to share their financial information with the county, he said. Many of the rules the county established for the program come from the federal government, which made the money available through the CARES Act.

The need is still there, said Chris Denkers, who owns Coyote Hole Ciderworks near Lake Anna. His business was one of the 11 that received grants of up to $10,000 during the first two rounds. The total amount the county allocated was $104,000, far less than the $750,000 that was original made available to businesses.

“The assistance didn’t even cover two weeks of payroll for us,” Denkers said. “We’re still fighting the [COVID-19] precautions.” He suggested that the county lift the $10,000 cap and ask businesses to share their operating expenses.

The board has already allocated the $6.4 million it received in CARES Act relief, so any additional funds for businesses will have to be moved from another project. The board will decide what to do at its Nov. 16 meeting.

Supervisors Eric Purcell and Willie Gentry (Louisa and Cuckoo districts) said they would like to see nonprofit agencies such as the Louisa Arts Center be eligible for the grants. They noted that while they are nonprofit, they do produce economic value for the county. Wade said he prefers to limit the program to for-profit businesses.

“Nonprofits are somewhat of a business,” Gentry said. “The arts center is tremendously hurt with COVID. There are some nonprofits this board should consider participating in.”

“I think the $60,000 we give them every year is a pretty good grant,” said Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral District). He said he wouldn’t support including nonprofits in the small business program.

Adams suggested allocating another $100,000 for the third round. The board’s economic development committee will revisit who can apply for the grants, and the available amount, and report back at the Nov. 16 meeting. The money has to be spent by Dec. 31.

The board’s vote to offer a third round of grants was 5-2, with Barlow and Gentry opposed.

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