MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Help could be on the way for small businesses in the Montgomery area struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce has created a grant-making initiative called the Recover Together Small Business Relief Fund. The fund is designed to provide one-time grants, typically ranging from $3,000 and $5,000 to small businesses in the Montgomery area as they continue or resume operations after COVID-19.
“The largest single employer of employees in the Montgomery area are the many different small businesses that we have.” said Lora McClendon, Chief of Staff for Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. “Everything from our restaurants to our barbers, to our delivery services, it’s everything. Every service that you interact with on an everyday basis. That is the entire structure of who we are, the entire structure of our economy, without our small businesses, not only would we look a lot different as a community from what makes us special, but it would be really hard for the day-to-day activities that we all take for granted to actually happen. Many different family businesses, many different businesses that may be from 10 to 25 employees, that is a huge amount of employers in our area.”
Small businesses make up about 75 percent of the chamber’s membership. This fund is to help as many of them as possible stay afloat.
"Small businesses have been particularly hit, especially in our hospitality, retail space. I know a lot of our salons have been hit really hard. Any of those services that involve serving people in close contact with customers," McClendon said.
McClendon says the chamber saw it as their mission to get information to support the community with updates to public health orders and resources.
"If there are best practices that are being put out by organizations that specialize in a specific area like human resources or finance, we want to make sure to make those available in a consolidated way,” McClendon added.
"You just have to show a need," explained John Steiner, a member of the fund's committee. "How has it affected your revenues? How has it affected your ability to service your client? How has it affected your ability to pay your employees? How has it affected you?"
For the purposes of the Recover Together Small Business Relief Fund, a small business is defined as one who employs 25 or fewer workers. The window for applying for one of these grants is open June 1 through June 15. Those seeking to apply can find the application here.
"We are going to try to determine need based on what is shown in the application. Some will be affected more than others," Steiner said. "But we also have this mandate to get as many as possible."
Money for the fund has been provided by the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and other businesses and organizations in the area that has, and continue to, donate.
"We are hoping that if we get enough donations from other business owners that have the ability to do this, but we can do a second round, third round, keep this thing going, as long as people give money to it,” said Steiner.
This fund is one of several measures the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce has taken to help small businesses through this pandemic. It created the Small Business Hub in April.
“There is a dedicated phone line that you can call, as a small business owner, and speak directly with a specialist that can connect you to resources, tell you what kind of relief is out there for you, talk a little bit about assistance with loan programs, help identify some loan programs," McClendon explained. "If you need more technical assistance like talking through your business strategy or maybe even getting some tax advice, or things like that, we do have some counselors that are on deck to be referrals for that kind of service. We wanted to provide a dedicated resource and easy resource.”
The Small Business hub has already counseled about 125 businesses.
“The top three issues that we were getting inquiries about where access to funding, emergency funding assistance, how to access emergency loan programs, that kind of thing. So we quickly realized that we really needed to create something in Montgomery that really focused on a very rapid, flexible relieves your small business community.”