The COVID-19 pandemic rocked business all over the world. From businesses losing service to some even having to shutter their doors, the pandemic proved to be a lifechanging event for business owners across the globe. While some large-scaled businesses temporarily closed their doors, small and micro businesses struggled to even keep their businesses alive. In addition to the United States Small Business Administration’s (SBA) efforts to sustain business activity during this time, owners were forced to find their own creative ways to survive the pandemic.
While we all witnessed this worldwide economic loss, we at Charles County Economic Development Department (EDD) have been dedicated, determined, and committed to helping our local businesses to successfully emerge during and after the crisis.
“Small and micro businesses are vital to our local economic recovery,” said Lucretia Freeman-Buster, Charles County EDD’s Chief of Business Development. “Small businesses will play a major role in the U.S. economic recovery, just like they were during the peak of the pandemic. Yet, many faced greater constraints than larger operations to access capital needed to survive. With the right type of resource support and capacity building training, our local businesses will thrive. “
Charles County Economic Development Department took a different approach in helping its small & micro businesses access funding. Here are a few ways we supported local small & micro businesses in the county:
- Major outreach to the Charles County business community to get a firsthand pulse on local business needs and to find a solution. We mobilized an outreach team to call businesses to assess their needs and assist them with the necessary documentation needed to apply for grant funding. About 95% of the businesses that were contacted applied for grant funding with the county and were approved. Along with financial grant assistance, businesses needed clearer communication from the county about its programs. Many of the business owners we talked to said they appreciated the outreach and our dedication to walking them through the county’s application process. Many stated that they applied to different programs and never got a response, or they applied but got no assistance through the application process.
- Effectively and strategically administrating the COVID 19 Business Relief Grant, Lodging and Accommodations COVID-19 Relief Grant, Restaurant and Caterers COVID-19 Relief Grant, and Online Sales and Telework Assistance COVID-19 Relief Grant. Through extensive outreach and rapid results in responding to the businesses, the EDD disbursed a total of 686 grants to 468 businesses totaling $5,939,932.20. These funds went to businesses in a variety of sectors including restaurants, hospitality, retail, breweries & distilleries, professional services, contractors, daycares, farms, and others.
The survival of our small businesses is critical to the long-term economic health of Charles County, as businesses will need to take a holistic approach to restarting. We are here to help our local small & micro businesses rebuild. We learned a lot about the needs of small business in the last year, and the EDD is committed to providing support that aligns with business short-term needs – such as access to capital and employment support – as well as long-term support to include business skills and capacity building. To accomplish this, the Economic Development Department will launch several business development initiatives over the course of the next year. They include:
- Continued business needs assessments;
- Focused and dedicated outreach to business owners and operators to increase awareness of business support resources in the community and help business owners/operators tap into services;
- Training programs to help businesses build capacity to recovery and grow their operations. Topics will include:
- Small business finance
- Business management
- Human resources
- Product/Service communication
- Restructuring business plans to include the “new normal”
- A new Rescue Act Grant Program to support specific needs of local small businesses and enable implementation of training outcomes.