Montgomery Co. plans to give small businesses coronavirus grants

With so many small businesses shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, the Montgomery County Council is poised to create a $20 million program that would allow businesses to access grants so they can pay their bills and employee salaries.

Through the Public Health Emergency Grant Program, businesses and nonprofits with 100 or fewer full-time employees would be able to apply for grants of up to $75,000 each.

“This is such an important action to send a message loud and clear to our business community,” said councilmember Andrew Friedson. “We need to do our part at the county level and we need to step up.”

Under the program, businesses would have access to smaller grants of up to $2,500 to offset costs related to the purchase of equipment that allows employees to work remotely.

Councilmembers discussed the plan during a meeting Tuesday, with several council members participating remotely themselves.

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“We’re trying to do the best that we can from where we sit,” said councilmember Will Jawando, who noted that tens of thousands of businesses may qualify for the grants.

“$20 million – this will go quickly,” Jawando said.

A final vote on whether to pass the measure is expected during a council meeting next week.

“We’re going to continue to push our federal and state colleagues to get additional support because lord knows we need it,” Jawando said.

Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan rolled out a $175 million relief package that includes $125 million in state loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofits.

Under that program, businesses are able to get up to $50,000 in loans and $10,000 in grants.

It is meant to “provide working capital to be used for payroll, rent, fixed-debt payments and other mission critical cash operating costs,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.

The D.C. Council recently created a similar program for the District, allowing businesses to receive grants to help with losses due to the pandemic.

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