Pictured above: Thank you notes from CARES recipients
The Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the Talbot County Finance Office working together have been successfully administering the Talbot CARES Small Business Emergency Relief Grant programs. To qualify, owners were required to illustrate that they suffered a loss of revenue of at least 25% directly related to the pandemic. Many of the businesses that received grant funding had been shut down by Executive Orders or operating at reduced capacity.
According to Cassandra Vanhooser, Director of the Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the program’s success was the involvement of the business community members who formed the Senior Policy Group. The group was comprised of Corey Pack, County Council, Andy Hollis, County Manager, Jessica Morris, Assistant County Manager, Clay Stamp, Director of Emergency Service and Assistant County Manager, Angela Lane, Director of Finance, and Dr. Fredia Wadley, Talbot County Health Officer put together a proposal on how the money would be allocated and administered.
After the state approval, the administration of the monies fell to the Business Grants Task Force made up of additional powerhouse members including Jackie Wilson, EDC Chairman, Provident State Bank, Rich Loeffler, Business Consultant, Small Business Development Center, and Town Representatives: Ron Engle/Easton; Sandi Pepe/Oxford; Jean Weisman/St. Michaels, and Walter Chase/Trappe. Linda Webb and Angela Lane also oversaw the Individual Assistance Grants.
“We streamlined the process,” said Vanhooser. “Any applications that did not qualify for some reason was reviewed by a task force member. So, at every step of the way, it was all of us making it happen. And that’s why I think it was successful.”
Vanhooser said that everyone agrees on the importance of connecting businesses with much needed resources. She gave the example of one owner who was on the verge of closing her business within a few days after turning in her application. An email to Greg Bartoo, business consultant for SBDC, brought advice and much needed additional CARES money. The business was saved and is in a position for growth this year. “That’s the goal for all the grants,” says Vanhooser, “to have as many businesses as possible survive the pandemic. So that at the end of this thing, that these people are still operating and not just operating, but ready to move forward and grow their business.”
Other success stories can be counted through the completed programs: Talbot CARES Small Business Grant Program disbursed $1.45 million in CARES grant funds to 154 businesses, and Talbot County Restaurant Relief Fund Grant allocated $535,310 to 81 businesses.
The group’s efforts are being noticed. At the end of December, a contribution to help local businesses was made by a generous and anonymous donor in the name of Talbot County Economic Development and Tourism to the Mid Shore Community Foundation. The monies have been earmarked as an ‘emergency fund,’ available to assist those businesses who may not qualify for grants. The group is currently setting up guidelines for this new program.
The groups are not done. Coming up are two additional grants that will be ready to receive applications: Round Two, Talbot County Restaurant Relief Fund Grant: $318,810 and the Talbot County Hotel & Motel Relief Fund Grant: $534,480;
“It’s working,” says Vanhooser, “because people from the business community have joined together to help make this grant program work. And it has taken all of us and all of our input and all of our ideas to structure something that was hopefully fair and equitable and that people could benefit from. It has taken a village.”