The COVID-19 pandemic forced a number of non-essential businesses in the county to close and many small businesses were severely impacted, particularly in the restaurant, retail and travel sectors.
In April, the Prince William County Department of Economic Development created the Economic Recovery Task Force to help staff develop recommendations to aid the county’s post COVID-19 recovery.
In a recent meeting, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted to appropriate $5 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act, and $1 million from the county’ Economic Development Opportunity Fund to institute the recommendations.
Christina Winn, the executive director of the Department of Economic Development, told the board during a recent presentation that the Economic Opportunity Fund money will give incentives to opening small businesses and encourage existing businesses to make improvements.
The presentation showed that $500,000 from the Economic Development Fund would be used to reduce or eliminate development fees and provide expedited processing to help restaurants, retail and mixed-use development to repurpose workplaces or stores to accommodate business in the COVID-19 era.
The remaining $500,000 from the Economic Development Fund will provide grants to the targeted sectors of information communication technology, federal government contracting, life sciences, corporate and federal facilities, logistics and supply chain, opportunity zones and redevelopment areas, destination and tourism venues and entrepreneurial ventures, to stimulate the economy. The Department of Economic Development will work with the Industrial Development Authority of Prince William County to determine which businesses would receive grants of up to $30,000. The grants could be used for operating, recruiting and capital investment.
Some money from the CARES Act will go towards Infrastructure and Innovation Grants of up to $200,000 each to service-oriented businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, to make safety improvements to their facilities. Those improvements could include improving curbside pickup operations or ventilation system upgrades to improve air quality.
Other funding from the CARES Act will go towards Workforce Reskilling and Transition Grants, which could help roughly 16,100 unemployed people in the county who are unlikely to return to work by the end of 2020. Many of those unemployed workers will need to accept jobs that differ from their previous employment. Up to $1.5 million will be used to create “virtual hubs” that could connect people who are unemployed or underemployed with training opportunities for new jobs. Funding will also be used to contract with education partners to provide vouchers for training.
With $150,000 to $200,000 from the CARES Act, the Small Business Technical Assistance program, established by the economic development department, will hire up to five business consultants through the Mason Small Business Development Center, which provides free counseling and training services to small businesses in Prince William, Arlington and Fairfax counties, the city of Manassas and Richmond. The consultants will work with small businesses to provide business recovery and other technical expertise which would not normally be available to many small businesses, including women- and minority-owned businesses.
Economic development’s Be Safe, Work Safe, Shop Safe program will receive $250,000 to $500,000 from the CARES Act funding to establish training and education programs for business owners and their employees. Vouchers will be made available to employers to provide training to businesses and their employees on how to operate in accordance with guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, and the Virginia Department of Health, VDH. The training will provide instruction on how to properly wear a mask, clean and sanitize and how to practice social distancing and other practices to keep them and their customers safe. Th training will also provide an additional level of consumer confidence as reopening continues.
Lastly, the economic development department’s Ambassador program will use $50,000 to $250,000 to temporarily assign county staff to lead a team of volunteers to help distribute information on the safety guidelines established by OSHA, the CDC and the VDH. The volunteers and staff will make “house calls” to area businesses to disseminate the information.
More information about assistance for local small businesses is available at princewilliamcounty.biz