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Program helps area businesses

It’s no secret that small businesses are the lifeblood of a community.

It’s also no secret that many of those businesses have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, some to the point that they might have to close their doors for good.

That’s why it was good to learn last week that the owners of those companies took advantage of help that has been made available through a variety of sources.

We saw the latest example Thursday, when the Jefferson County commissioners reported that 71 local businesses and organizations had successfully participated in the county’s COVID-19 Small Business-Nonprofit Emergency Relief Grant Program.

Put together at the beginning of November, the program was a collaboration among the commissioners, the office of county Auditor E.J. Conn and the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. It offered area businesses which had 25 or fewer employees an annual revenue that did not exceed $2 million, as well as some nonprofits, the chance to apply for an award of up to $10,000 to cover COVID-related expenses and revenue losses.

That money came from a pool of $1 million the county had received from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

While it’s good to know that 71 businesses and organizations have been helped, it is disappointing to learn that the program had received 120 applications, which means that 49 other businesses and groups missed out on their share of the money because they didn’t have the proper documentation, the commissioners explained.

Still, as Conn pointed out, the total allocated worked out to $680,000, which means a lot of money has been distributed. The remaining $380,000 the county had set aside will be used for other purchases and projects that are allowed under the C.A.R.E.S. Act, Conn explained.

The news came near the end of a week that began with reports that showed that 855 businesses in Jefferson, Brooke and Hancock counties had received more than $97 million through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Those awards ranged from more than $6 million to as small as $265. That money has allowed businesses to retain staff members, keep their doors open and provide employment opportunities while serving the community.

Local officials made a good call when they worked to put the county’s relief package together. It was, as Tricia Maple-Damewood, president of the chamber, explained designed to help area businesses survive until they can get back on solid ground.

That money will help accomplish that goal, and, as Conn said Thursday, “just might save somebody’s job or somebody’s business.”

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