Alameda County Board of Supervisors allocates $5M to support small businesses

Photo of an open sign in front of a business
Katie Lee/Staff
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors announced the launch of the Alameda County CARES Grant program, which aims to provide financial support for struggling local businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will help reimburse costs that have been accumulated from March 17 to Dec. 30 for eligible businesses.

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The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has decided to allocate $5 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act to the Alameda County CARES Grant program in an effort to financially support local businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past several months, Berkeley businesses have struggled from financial hardships associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To help curb these challenges, the city of Berkeley announced the Berkeley Relief Fund last spring. However, more was needed to help support struggling businesses, according to Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson.

“Small businesses are experiencing an unprecedented crisis, especially on Telegraph and near campus,” Robinson said in an email. “Early in the pandemic, the city council established the Berkeley Relief Fund to support our struggling small businesses. But the severity of the need is so much bigger than any city can tackle alone.”

The program, announced Tuesday, will prioritize small and emerging businesses, and businesses that are eligible for the program can receive a $5,000 one-time grant, according to a county press release.

In order to be eligible for the program, which will specifically help reimburse costs accumulated between March 17 and Dec. 30, a business must have had to either close or lay off some of its staff members. According to press release, they must also have a valid business license and adhere to public health guidelines posed by the county.

“Our small business community has been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Keith Carson, Alameda County Board of Supervisors vice president, in the press release. “Alameda County is pleased that it is able to launch this much-needed grant program at this pivotal moment when we are experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases in our communities.”

Carson said in an email that in addition to supporting local businesses, the county has also invested more than $100 million in health care services. This money, according to Carson, has helped support three public hospitals, ensure access to adequate equipment and promote COVID-19 testing.

According to Carson, the county has worked to feed and house more than 1,300 individuals.

“The County has the statutory responsibility to oversee the health, welfare and public safety of the one million six hundred thousand people who live in Alameda County,” Carson said in the email. “The Pandemic has impacted every part of the world, nation, state and our community.”

Applications for the Alameda County CARES Grant program opened Nov. 16 and will be available until Nov. 30 at 11:30 p.m., according to the county press release.

Assistance with the application process will be available at local chambers of commerce.

“I’m so grateful to the county, especially Supervisor Keith Carson, for allocating these additional funds to make this grant program possible for our merchants,” Robinson said in the email.

Contact Mallika Seshadri at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SeshadriMallika.