Baltimore Co. offers grants to small businesses

Posted at 6:08 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 18:08:41-04

TOWSON, Md (WMAR) — It's going on 7 weeks now that restaurants have been closed and doing pick up or delivery only. Nearly a month since all non-essential businesses had to close completely. Small business owners are feeling it, frustrated that they haven't gotten any economic relief.

"I’m not seeing the help that I need to stay open, I’m losing money left and right, day after day after day," said Melony Wagner, owner of Charles Village Pub in Towson.

She's been there 30 years. Her business is small, just one location, and although she has applied, she has not received any federal or state aid.

"My entire life has been wrapped up in the business. I’ve put everything into it and to have it all basically taken away from you without having any control or any say over it it very difficult," said Wagner.

But relief may be coming from the county.

"Baltimore county is here to help," said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

Tuesday, he announced $10 million dollars in grants for small businesses struggling because of the pandemic.

The Department of Economic and Workforce Development (DEWD) will administer the Baltimore County COVID-19 Small Business Relief Grants Program, which will award grants of up to $15,000 each to more than 650 Baltimore County-based small businesses on a first-come, first-served basis.

The County has set a goal to award at least 25 percent of grant funding to women and minority-owned businesses.

To qualify for this grant program, small businesses must retain at least half of the workforce they had prior to January 31, 2020, which must have included at least two non-owner employees prior to Maryland’s Stay-at-Home Order. They must also:

  • have at least two employees who are not owners or part-owners,
  • have no more than 25 employees per Baltimore County establishment,
  • demonstrate that they have lost at least 40 percent of their revenues since the Stay-at-Home Order began,
  • have been in operation for at least one year as of January 1, 2020, and commenced operations by December 31, 2018 or earlier, and
  • certify that they have not received other forms of federal or state COVID-19 assistance or relief at the time of application, and

be in good standing and not in default with the State of Maryland and Baltimore County.
"These grants are designed for our small mom and pop businesses who have not yet received any federal PPP or EIDL relief," said Olszewski.

Wagner said she will believe it when she sees it, and because she used to have almost 50 employees but now can only afford to pay 4, she may not even be eligible.

"If small businesses do not get help immediately, it is too little too late and to be honest, because of the catastrophic loses that we’ve already sustained, I don’t even know how long it will take me to come back from that," said Wagner.

Grant funds may only be used for payroll, operating expenses, business lease or rent, and inventory acquisition vital to the business, with at least 30 percent of the funds used to support payroll for non-owners. Funds may not be used for capital improvements or personal expenses, and if a business fails to reopen, all grant funds must be returned to the County within 14 days.

The county will start to accept these grant applications on May 11th, along with applications for a new grant for artists. The County's Office of Tourism and Cultural Arts with provide $1,000 grants for up to 100 artists to help them recoup some of their lost income.

Grants will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are depleted, and priority will be given to lower income artists, making $37,500 or less per year. Applicants will submit a streamlined application, document their artistic portfolio, and must be adult Baltimore County residents over the age of 18.