Waterford implements grant program for small businesses
Waterford — Small businesses felt some of the biggest impacts from shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, those businesses here are getting an opportunity to recover.
Last week, the town announced its new small business grant program in an effort to provide American Rescue Plan Act funds to businesses most in need.
With roughly $230,000 set aside and the hiring of consultant Brianna Regine at a cost of $66,000, Planning Director Abby Piersall said the town is getting money in the hands of those who are most in need.
“There’s been a real strong desire to show local support for folks who are investing in our community every single day and understanding the impacts of COVID are certainly far reaching,” she said.
The program is the result of a collaborative effort between the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Economic Development Commission and the First Selectman’s office to “fill a gap of what are the immediate needs folks have,” Piersall said.
This could include a piece of equiptment, training, help with building a website or branding, or some other need.
The EDC will decide which businesses are awarded grants. Piersall said the initial plan is to allocate $10,000 awards, but noted that may change after the town receives surveys from interested applicants and holds a virtual round table with them at the end of the month.
The town is specifically looking to award grants to small businesses with 30 employees or less, Piersall said.
Depending on the results, Piersall said there may be multiple rounds of awards, but noted the importance of both the survey and the round table for not only getting the grants in the hands of the right people but building the future of the program.
“We’re doing two things right now. One, we’re getting money into the hands of the small businesses that need it most. Two, we’re looking at crafting a program that really could be repeated and may have the potential to go on into the future,” she said.
Neighboring municipalities such as East Lyme and Stonington were influences for Waterford’s implementation of the program, Piersall explained. While it has yet to be determined how future implementations of the program will be funded — outside grants and capital funding are possibilities — Piersall said the town now has the opportunity to turn an idea from two years ago into a reality.
"What we’re trying to do now is show folks the benefits of investing and partnering with our small businesses to keep this vibrant, local economy going,” she said.