Salt Lake County wants to give $35 million to local businesses

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Euro Treasures Antiques places "we give up, store closing," signs in downtown Salt Lake City as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll on businesses, April 29, 2020. Salt Lake County announced another $35 million in relief funds for small business on Tuesday.

After doling out funds to nearly 150 business owners, Salt Lake County is expanding its Small Business Impact Grant program so more people can apply.

The county’s first round of grants was open only to businesses that had not received funds from other programs, including the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Now, any small Salt Lake County-based business impacted by the coronavirus pandemic can apply.

“We want to make sure we’re understanding the ripple effect, and addressing the ripple effect, of those COVID impacts on businesses,” Dina Blaes, director of Salt Lake County’s Office of Regional Development, said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the expansion.

The county had to turn away nearly 1,400 businesses during its first round of grants, Blaes said. Regional Development has awarded $2.4 million to 142 companies so far and is reviewing 125 more applications requesting $2.1 million.

That means there’s about $35 million left of $40 million in funds earmarked for small business grants, which the county received from the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“We’re going to keep this going until we run out of money. So, please, help us run out of money,” Blaes said. “We would like the program to end as quickly as possible, and we would like to give out as much as we can.”

The average grant award during the first round was $17,000, but businesses are eligible for up to $35,000 of CARES-based funding. To qualify for a Small Business Impact Grant, a company must have fewer than 100 employees, have been operational before Jan. 1 of this year, be based in Salt Lake County and have a documented loss due to the pandemic.

“Remember, this is a grant,” said Salt Lake Mayor Jenny Wilson. “There are no repayment terms. This is your funding to run your business and to create a bridge into days where you’re back at it without COVID.”

Although most businesses have reopened after mandated closures over the spring, Blaes said many county entrepreneurs are feeling financial pains from the pandemic.

“We maybe underestimated the length and time that the COVID crisis was going to be impacting businesses,” Blaes said. “They’re still experiencing loss.”

For more information on the Small Business Impact Grant Program, visit slco.org or call 385-468-4011.