Investing in Small and Independent Businesses
COVID-19 and Arlington’s Small Business Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Arlington’s small businesses in profound and fundamental ways. In April 2020, unemployment peaked at 7%, and, while it fell to 5.9% in June, and will fall much further in the months and years to come, these are still levels that we have not seen in Arlington for over a decade. Small business make up the foundation of Arlington’s economy and over 92% of Arlington businesses have 50 employees or less. It is imperative that we support small businesses in these unprecedented times to ensure that they are able to keep their doors open and sustain Arlington’s thriving business environment.
In addressing small business’ severe capital shortages, Matt joined his colleagues on the County Board in support of the Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term (GRANT) Program as an initial response. The GRANT Program focuses specifically on providing near-term income relief to Arlingtonian business and nonprofits, many of whom are still struggling despite federal relief initiatives. Working together with the Arlington Industrial Development Authority and the Ballston, Crystal City and Rosslyn Business Improvement Districts, the County Board allocated a total of $2.8M in funding for the GRANT Program in the first six months of 2020, and will be seeking to add to that total, if funds allow over the months and years to come. In order to qualify for the GRANT Program, businesses and nonprofits must be located in Arlington County, have fewer than 50 employees, and have suffered revenue loss of at least 35% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The GRANT Program is unique in that it targets the hardest hit small businesses. A vital component of the GRANT Program differentiating it from the Payment Protection Program is that awards are capped at $10,000 per business. This ensures that the County is able to help as many vulnerable businesses as possible, while still making a meaningful contribution to their balance sheets. Most importantly, the GRANT Program bolsters small business’ ability to retain employees, and therefore focuses on reducing unemployment. On June 17, 2020, the County Board announced that 393 businesses will receive awards from the GRANT Program. While there is no question that we must do more to protect Arlington’s small businesses, the GRANT Program is an important first step in the right direction.
In addition to approving the GRANT Program, Matt is committed to helping Arlington’s small businesses navigate the complicated process of restarting the economy safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, Arlington Economic Development (AED) released Onward Arlington, a series of webinars dedicated to helping small business owners reopen safely and adapt to the new normal that Matt recommends.
Matt’s Commitment to Small Businesses
The COVID-19 pandemic has rightfully taken center stage. Matt’s experience working as a city Attorney in both Texas and California provide him with important insight into local economic development policies. Additionally, his participation in Leadership Arlington in 2015 and the Sorensen institute for Political Leaders Program in 2016 have given him a deep understanding of economic development in the Commonwealth. He is also well versed in regional economic development, having participated in Leadership Greater Washington in 2019-2020 after joining the County Board. Matt is committed to reducing office vacancies and encouraging small business to drive economic growth for residents.
Matt believes this can be achieved through careful, case by case cost-benefit analysis to determine when the County Board should employ financial incentives. Additionally, strengthening lines of communication between business and the County is an effective way to find bottlenecks that hinder investment. Once identified, the County can work with small businesses to implement constructive solutions to these bottlenecks and maximize investment and community growth.