Tulare County starts $7.5 million COVID-19 grant program for small businesses

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- When JC's Salon and Boutique opened last October, Jesica Chavez saw her longtime dream of owning a small business realized.

But like so many others, JC's was forced to close because of COVID-19 in March.

Chavez was able to reopen for a few weeks when the Governor eased 'stay at home' orders.

But she closed again on Monday, after the state reimposed restrictions on hair salons and barbershops.

"We're still having to pay bills here," Chavez said. "There are some places...they just take the late fee off. But I mean a late fee of $6 is nothing compared to the full amount that we have to still pay and not even using our services. So it's hard."

Chavez did not apply for any loans for fear of incurring more debt.

And because she didn't receive any kind of relief, she's now eligible for a new small business grant program through the county of Tulare.

Officials say they will use $7.5 million in CARES Act funding to give $5,000 grants to hundreds of Tulare County businesses in the near future.

"So we really are trying to hit those businesses that have slipped through the cracks," Tulare County Supervisor Pete Vander Poel said. "This is available not only to for-profit businesses, also available to non-profits as well. Independent contractors can also qualify for this."

Businesses must have 20 or fewer employees and meet other requirements to apply.

The workforce investment board of Tulare County will administer the program, working with the county, cities, chambers of commerce, and school districts to identify eligible businesses.

"Whoever has that outreach to the businesses, those main street businesses in our community who aren't experts in filling out government paperwork or loan applications-this is intended that it is simple for them to apply and to secure this funding to meet the needs," said Tulare County WIB Executive Director Adam Peck.

The funding can be used for rent, utilities, and COVID-19-related expenses, like disinfectant supplies.

Chavez hopes she is selected for the program.

But she also hopes people will support their hair stylists when they're allowed to reopen again.

"I can't speak for other shops but I can speak for mine that we are doing our part in keeping our clients safe," Chavez said.

The grant program application period is expected to start on August 1st and last two weeks.

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