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, 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% 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 and the County Board are proud to have implemented 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 has allocated a total of $2.8M in funding for the GRANT Program, including an increase of $1.6M from CARES Act funding approved by the County Board on June 16, 2020. 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 award amounts are varied, and are capped at $10,000 per business. This ensures that the County Board 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 were scheduled to 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, we are committed to helping Arlington’s small businesses navigate the complicated process of restarting the economy safely in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. With this in mind, Arlington Economic Development (AED) is releasing Onward Arlington, a series of webinars dedicated to helping small business owners reopen safely and adapt to the new normal.
Matt’s Commitment to Small Businesses
The COVID-19 pandemic has rightfully taken center stage in recent discussions regarding Arlington’s small businesses. Once we overcome this challenge, however, it is vital that we do not neglect Arlington’s structural issues. 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. Matt remains committed to bolstering the County Board’s Role in 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 Board is an effective way to find bottlenecks that hinder investment. Once identified, the County Board can work with small businesses to implement constructive solutions to these bottlenecks and maximize investment and community growth.