Henrico Co. partners with LISC Virginia to offer monetary relief for micro-businesses impacted by COVID-19

Henrico County and LISC Virginia have partnered to offer financial assistance to micro-businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 2:22 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - Henrico County and LISC Virginia have partnered to offer financial assistance to micro-businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A micro-business is considered a business with five or fewer employees. Companies in Henrico can apply for the grant through the Henrico County Microenterprise Relief Fund.

The application deadline is Friday, August 21 at 11:59 p.m.

“This $300,000 fund will provide grants to small businesses in Henrico County to pay for operational costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” a press release stated. “Approximately 25 businesses in Henrico County will receive grants up to $10,000 to pay for payroll, rent, utilities, vendor bills, and COVID-19 related expenses. These grants will provide rapid relief to small businesses, helping them remain operational, retain employees and continue offering vital goods and services in their community.”

However, LISC Virginia Executive Director Jane Ferrara said Wednesday they are aiming to provide as many micro-businesses with financial assistance as possible.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a cap per se,” she added. “We have $237,000 to grant out to microenterprises. We expect we will likely be able to assist anywhere from 20 to 40 businesses. For those businesses that are not successful in receiving a grant award, it will give us the opportunity to direct them to other resources that are available to them.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Ferrara said nearly 30 businesses were in the application process for the program.

Fit For a Queen Curvy Consignment is just one of the dozens of micro-businesses in Henrico County. Owner Laura Ricker said she plans to file an application as soon as possible.

“It’s essential for us to tap into all the resources we can,” she added.

The doors are now open at Ricker’s store, but for at least three months at the beginning of the pandemic she said she wasn’t sure her doors would open again.

“We certainly had to ask ourselves that question,” Ricker said. “We certainly had to get very creative in terms of funding sources and exploring every avenue available for us.”

The plus-size consignment boutique is one of the dozens of micro-businesses in Henrico County.

These businesses have five or fewer employees; Ricker only has three.

“We are very micro, but growing quickly hopefully once COVID has passed,” she said.

In an effort to continue to grow, Ricker plans to seek relief through the Henrico County Microenterprise Relief Fund.

“We formulated a grant program that is intended to prioritize those neighborhoods that are underserved and in much-needed relief from the effects of COVID,” Ferrara said.

The partnership between the County and LISC Virginia will award up to $10,000 per business to utilize for specific needs.

“It’s paying for things like rent, utilities, vendors; these businesses need to stay sustainable,” said Retail Merchants Association President & CEO Nancy Thomas.

"Some of the things we had to do will impact us not only in 2020 but in years to come," Ricker added.

Ricker hopes she gets approved so she can keep “Queens” outfitted in the community.

“I have women in here every day saying there are not enough options for curvy women in Richmond and nationwide,” she added.

To qualify, the business must meet the following requirements:

  • Microenterprise: 2-5 employees, one of whom is the owner.
  • Income: Owner’s household income is at or below 80% of the area median income (AMI). Please use the table below to verify your income level.
  • Years of operation: The business must have been in operation as of March 16, 2019.
  • Physical storefront: The business must have a physical storefront where they shall make their best effort to remain open, providing their primary goods or services during their normal business hours, consistent with local, state, or national guidelines, while grant funds are used.
  • Business License: Possess a valid Henrico County business license.
  • Financial Obligations: Be current on all financial obligations to Henrico County as of March 16, 2020, including utilities, property taxes, real estate taxes, and meals tax, where applicable.
  • Zoning: Be in compliance with Henrico County zoning regulations.
  • Priority Consideration: Priority will be given to businesses located in a Henrico County Enterprise Zone or a Low or Moderate-Income Census Block Group. To verify that your business is located in one of these areas, please use this online tool. If your business is not located in either area, you may still be eligible if additional funds are available and are strongly encouraged to apply.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of our communities, providing jobs, goods and services, neighborhood wealth, and familiar faces along the street,” Ferrara said. “During these unprecedented public health and economic challenges, LISC Virginia is humbled to work with Henrico County to invest in underserved communities and small businesses across the county.”

The Retail Merchants Association is also working with local groups to provide grants for businesses across the area impacted by COVID-19.

“The uncertainty of the long-term impact from COVID-19, they are a burden to all businesses,” Thomas said. “But the uncertainty for these micro-businesses really weighs heavy on them. They may not have the financial wherewithal or the rainy day funds.”

Thomas added this application is a “simple 10-minute” opportunity to help pay for things like rent, utilities and vendors.

For more information on the program, click here.

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