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Alma Coffee founders Harry and Leticia Hutchins said they benefited from the Cherokee small business grant program.

Applications for a second round of grants to assist small businesses hurt by the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has opened, officials said Monday. The first round of grants helped 19 local firms.

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development and the Cherokee County Community Development Block Grant Program recently awarded up to $10,000 in grants to 19 local small businesses.

“The program helped retain nearly 100 local jobs and supported businesses ranging from retail, restaurants, local artisans, and healthcare providers, among others,” COED officials said in a news release.

In addition to the grants already awarded, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners recently approved accepting and distributing through the CDBG program an additional $450,000 in funding to help eligible small businesses.

“The Cherokee Small Business Grant means everything to us,” said Alma Coffee Co-Owner Leticia Hutchins. “It has allowed us to keep our team employed and even add a new team member. Thank you to both the Cherokee Office of Economic Development and Cherokee County for rallying around small businesses to help us all overcome the financial hurdles of these challenging times.”

Funded through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the second round of funding provides assistance to small businesses that meet certain salary requirements and can be used for ongoing operational costs such as payroll, vendors, utilities, rent, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Grant amounts vary from $10,000 to $30,000 per small business, based on employment tier.

“The grant program has had an immeasurable impact on Cherokee’s small businesses,” said COED President Misti Martin. “From businesses being able to retain employees to everyday operational costs, these grants offer critical support when businesses need it most. This would not have been possible without the leadership of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.”

“I’m so glad we were able to get these funds and use them to help small local businesses retain their employees and survive this pandemic,” said Cherokee Board of Commissioners Chairman Harry Johnston. “More is needed, but every bit helps.”

Applications are being accepted for round two through Jan. 22, via an online grant application portal.

Eligibility requirements include:

♦ Businesses must have experienced a negative economic impact due to the coronavirus pandemic.

♦ Businesses should employ 500 or fewer W-2 positions.

♦ Businesses should be retaining, rehiring or creating jobs meeting the Low-to-Moderate-Income (LMI) salary threshold from HUD’s published income limits of no more than $46,350 annually for full-time employees; salaries for FTE employees will be scaled accordingly.

♦ 70 percent of retained, rehired or created jobs submitted for consideration must meet the $46,350 LMI salary requirement.

Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis with emphasis given to depth of economic injury to business; job retention/creation; and previous receipt of SBA or other economic assistance. Each qualified application will be evaluated by an independent review committee. COED anticipates announcing round two grant recipients in February 2021.

For full program information and to apply, visit the COED Grants page at https://www.cherokeega.org/grants.

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