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La Plata Cares: Support for businesses hit by COVID-19

Well, 2020 couldn’t get any weirder. And just as the business community is buckling down for a long, hard winter, another financial support mechanism has emerged: La Plata Cares.

Monique DiGiorgio

The program’s unique aspects will most likely capture the local business community’s interest – so please read on. La Plata Cares is a grant opportunity made available by La Plata County to support businesses located in the county that have been impacted by COVID-19. The exciting news is that both non-profit and for-profit businesses can apply for grants up to $10,000. Yes, you heard it correctly – a grant, not a loan.

We are pleased to announce that La Plata County has engaged Local First to administer these funds. As the voice of the local, independent business community in La Plata County, Local First stood out as an ideal choice to work with the business community and provide this type of much-needed support in what are unprecedented times. Local First has partnered with Aid to All to leverage their innovative online community platform as the application portal for the program. And the extra benefit for our business community is that while learning about La Plata Cares, they can also check out Aid to All to learn more about the neighbor-to-neighbor support that is available for individuals in the community impacted by COVID-19 and struggling to pay the bills.

All in all, La Plata Cares will disburse $810,000 in funding with the potential of up to $1 million depending on how grants are distributed and contingent upon additional funding availability that we hope to tap into. If I have piqued your interest. here is what you need to know about La Plata Cares to discern if it is a good fit your business: 1) Funds must be used for out-of-pocket expenses that were necessary due to COVID-19 and are expended between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. That means receipts from past expenditures after March 1st are eligible, and purchase orders for qualifying future expenses until December 30th are also eligible. Examples of reimbursable expenses include, but are not limited to: PPE, building safety and technology safety upgrades, response measures such as temperature screening and testing, advertising/marketing due to COVID, and legal or consulting support directly related to COVID.

The goal of the La Plata Cares grant is to maximize impact of these funds to assist the small business community in the most equitable and impactful way possible. Eligible businesses must have 50 FTE or fewer as of March 16, 2020 and have a physical location in La Plata County. If a business has more than one location, each location can apply. Businesses must have in-person interaction with customers and have completed San Juan Basin Public Health’s self-certification form for compliance with public health orders. Home-based business locations are eligible, however, fully remote or virtual businesses are not eligible, nor are marijuana and adult entertainment businesses. Franchise businesses and subsidiaries of national corporations are only eligible if they have a local ownership control model and can demonstrate that no relevant support from a franchised corporation or national partner was or will be available.

As a business owner, you may have already applied for the Gap Fund, or you may be looking at the second round of funding to apply. Either way, please take note that while the Gap Fund can pay to cover a business’ loss, La Plata Cares must be used to cover out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, the Gap Fund is prioritizing minority-owned businesses and the tourism sector, whereas La Plata Cares is considering all aspects of the grant impact, and in particular making sure that grants are disbursed equitably throughout La Plata County. So, think about the way both opportunities can benefit your business. Be sure not to double dip, as it may disqualify your business from this funding. Be ready to demonstrate that whatever support your business needs is only being received by one source of funding.

Applications open for La Plata Cares this upcoming Monday, October 5th until Friday, October 23rd. Visit www.localfirst.aidtoall.org to find out more and apply. General inquiries can be sent to laplatacares@local-first.org. Local First looks forward to working with the small business community in La Plata County to provide this much needed relief in what has been a challenging and bizarre year.

Monique DiGiorgio is executive director of Local First Foundation in Durango. Contact her at foundation@local-first.org.