by Blake Herzog
Pinal County has dedicated some of its funding from the federal CARES Act to give cash infusions to small businesses struggling in the economic conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The county’s Business Sustainability Program is giving grants of up to $15,000 each to enterprises located in unincorporated areas of the county negatively affected by the stay-home order Arizona had in place from March 31-May 15.
Business owners were given from June 15-July 15 to apply for the aid, county spokesman James Daniels said, and the Board of Supervisors didn’t place a cap on the total amount that could be given out. The one-time reimbursements are not loans to be paid back, and can be used for rent, mortgage and/or utility costs.
Daniels said as of July 1, 94 applications had been received, and 28 checks totaling approximately $240,000 sent out.
The supervisors invited small-business owners to one of their meetings in May to talk about their financial difficulties during the stay-at-home order, while the county was pressing the state to release CARES Act funding intended to be passed through to its 13 smallest counties. Gov. Doug Ducey released the funding shortly after Pinal County filed suit.
One of them was Gina Sandoval, owner of Patriot Martial Arts Academy at the corner of Ironwood and Ocotillo roads in San Tan Valley for the last six years. She explained the corporation that owned the building she’s located in wasn’t giving her any leeway as the studio fell behind on its rent while it was closed and how alternatives like the Paycheck Protection Program weren’t working for small businesses.
By late June, she’d applied to and been approved for participation in the Business Sustainability Program, though she didn’t know how much money she’d be getting.
“I’m really grateful that they asked business owners, ‘What do we do, where’s your perspective?’ It at least gave them the opportunity to structure the grant in a way that can really help the true small businesses,” Sandoval said.
She said the county grant will help her get caught up on rent, which she truly appreciates, but said it can’t solve all of the conundrums her business faces in a changed world.
“We can’t do anything when we’re closed, you feel stuck and hopeless. Being open at least gives you the chance of figuring things out. But there’s still fear in the community” about COVID-19, particularly as reported cases continue to rise.
She doesn’t know if enrollment will ever return to pre-pandemic levels, putting plans to move to a larger space in the near future on hold and leaving her uncertain about making a long-term commitment to the space she has.
“We had a really good sense of our numbers, and now we don’t have a good sense of our numbers,” she said.
In her spare time, Sandoval has been spearheading a local effort which has produced thousands of fabric face masks donated to hospitals.
For more information about the Business Sustainability Program visit www.pinalcountyaz.gov/pinal-works/BRC/Pages/BusinessSustainabilityProgram.aspx.