Frederick County full-time farmers, small businesses and micro businesses will be able to apply for a COVID-relief grant starting next week, County Executive Jan Gardner announced at a press conference on Thursday morning.
The JumpStart grants were funded by the county’s CARES Act money, which was received this week. Full-time farmers will be eligible for $6,000, small businesses will be eligible for $10,000 and micro businesses will be eligible for $3,300.
“The back bone of our economy is certainly our small businesses,” Gardner said, “and we certainly in Frederick County value our agriculture community and want to see them thrive after this virus experience.”
Small businesses have a physical location and between 10 and 50 employees. If the business has less than 10 employees, or is a sole proprietorship, it is considered a micro business. The employees can include 1099 employees — those considered independent contractors — in addition to W-2 employees. Employees can be full-time or part-time, and nonprofit businesses are also eligible for the grants.
“So really the differential is the number of employees because we believe that a portion of the grant could be spent on paying their employees to keep them employed,” said Helen Propheter, Director the Frederick County Office of Economic Development.
In order for an individual to be considered a full-time farmer, at least 51 percent of their income over the last two years must have come from farming.
The grants, unlike many government grants and loans intended for small businesses, will not be administered on a first-come, first-serve basis. Propheter said after speaking with their peers, the Office of Economic Development found that first-come first-serve is easy for those reviewing the applications. The time stamp of when the application was submitted provides an easy qualifier.
But the office also found that many “sophisticated” businesses with Human Resources departments were receiving more grants, while smaller and family-run businesses were not. These smaller businesses might not have had the resources to have the applications ready first.
The application will open on Thursday, May 28 at 7 a.m. and close on Friday, June 5 at midnight. After the application has closed, the county will begin reviewing the applications. The county will use an approach based on businesses’ needs to to determine who will receive funding.
“So there’s no need to rush the very first second the grant opens,” Propheter said.
The application itself is very simple. It consists of a round of qualifying questions, followed by about 15 questions for the application itself. Propheter said businesses will not need to print out their tax returns or any other documentation in order to fill out the applications. They will need to make sure they are in good standing with the state of Maryland, however, and are up to date with their taxes.
The application can be found at frederickcountymd.gov/jumpstart. The web page also features frequently asked questions in both English and Spanish.
“I’m so excited to be able to jumpstart our economy and to support our local bsuiensses and help them thrive again,” Gardner said.
At the press conference, Garnder also addressed her decision to keep hair salons, barber shops and houses of worship closed despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s implementation of Phase One, which allowed for the opening of these spaces with restrictions. Gardner explained that county governments could choose to move slower in reopening than Hogan, but not faster. The opening of churches for indoor services was originally part of Phase Two of Hogan’s plan, and Gardner does not feel it is yet safe to reopen an indoor gathering space.
She also heard from several hair salon and barber shop employees who are scared to go back to work, in fear of contracting the novel coronavirus. But if their employer invites them back and they refuse, they could lose their unemployment benefits.
“We are not returning to normal, we’re really trying to strive for a modified way to work and conduct our daily lives so we can do more, help restore our economy but also keep our community healthy,” Gardner said. “But we can only accomplish that if everybody does their part.”