Since the Greene County Partnership Foundation announced a new grant program in June to help local, small businesses recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, donations to contribute toward the grants came flooding in, and 16 local businesses received support through the grant in July.
Greene County Partnership President and CEO Jeff Taylor said in June that an anonymous local family had committed to matching funds dollar for dollar up to $50,000, and the Partnership was seeking contributions as well as accepting applications.
Taylor said at the time that the goal was to connect local needs with local dollars and to be able to give $100,000 to local businesses, but donations surpassed that goal and in three weeks the Partnership had roughly $104,000 to award to local business struggling with the impacts of COVID-19.
Taylor said all donors wished to remain anonymous.
“We live in such a generous community,” Taylor said at the end of July.
The generosity also came from business owners requesting assistance, Taylor said, as many business owners who applied for the grant were concerned about requesting too much, wanting for other businesses to get help as well, and some took their application off the table when business improved before they were notified of whether or not they would receive a grant from the Partnership.
“This was probably one of the most rewarding things to be a part of, to see the community come together in this rotten time,” Taylor said. “It made me love my job and my community more.”
The 16 grants were awarded to a range of small, local businesses including restaurants, retail, tourist destinations and lodging, health care, and the arts, and the average amount awarded was $2,335.
Business owners requested the funding to cover lost revenue, bills such as utilities and rent, and unexpected COVID-19 related expenses like cleaning equipment, Taylor said.
For King Tuxedo, a tuxedo rental business located on Tusculum Boulevard, the $2,500 from the Partnership will help pay rent and utility bills after the loss of the majority of this year’s revenue.
Kristy King, co-owner of King Tuxedo with her husband Tommy, said prom season typically makes up 75% of King Tuxedo’s business each year.
With many weddings postponed until next year on top of the loss of the usual prom season revenue, King said she was concerned about whether or not King Tuxedo could stay afloat until 2021.
King also said she was told that, as a rental business, King Tuxedo was not eligible for some other grants from the state that she and her husband looked into.
“This came at a perfect time,” King said. “It has been a total blessing. We’re grateful to still be open.”
King Tuxedo is currently open by appointment.
Betty Fletcher, operations director for the Greeneville Greene County History Museum, said the grant the museum received makes up for the funds normally given in donations from visitors.
While the museum has been open with safety precautions in place, and some tourists have made a stop there, visitation has been lower than usual for the timeframe of March through July.
Fletcher said a look through previous years’ records told her the museum was down about $1,000 this year due to COVID-19, but that funding has been made up with the receipt of a $1,000 Small Business Grant from the Partnership Foundation.
“We are really pleased,” Fletcher said.
The committee overseeing the Small Business Grant was hopeful to raise enough funds to be able to continue offering grants in case of a second lockdown or new wave of COVID-19 infections.
Taylor said that with the community’s generosity, funding is still available, and the Partnership is still accepting applications.
Small businesses physically located in Greene County that employ no more than 50 people are eligible to apply.
Businesses excluded from eligibility include banking and financial services; real estate; seasonal businesses; liquor, tobacco or vaping retail stores, and franchises, aside from locally owned and operated franchises.
The grant is intended to complement other federal and local grants that are available and provide another option to help small, local businesses, Taylor said in June.
A scoring system is used to determine grant winners, with preference given to applicants that were forced by Gov. Bill Lee’s executive orders 17, 21, 22 or 23 to cease or significantly modify operations.
The application is available online at the Partnership’s website, www.greenecountypartnership.com.
For more information contact Taylor at the Partnership at 638-4111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.