The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has approved 192 Hospitality, Retail & Service grant requests to businesses located in New Hanover County, totaling an investment of $4,212,112.
The City of Wilmington is putting federal funding into the hands of those who need it most, allocating millions to small businesses and non-profit organizations.
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has approved 192 Hospitality, Retail & Service grant requests to businesses located in New Hanover County, totaling an investment of $4,212,112. The investment in these businesses will help offset the more than $65 million in lost revenue due to COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions on business. Grant awardees represent as many as 3,700 local employees.
The Hospitality, Retail & Service grant was announced in July as part of New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington’s initiative to direct $4.5 million in funding allocated through the Federal Government’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) to areas the community had recognized as priorities. The Hospitality, Retail & Service Grant was created to provide one-time grants to local businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
City of Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said, “Wilmington small business owners and their employees are vital to Wilmington’s economy and have endured enormous challenges over the course of the pandemic. That is why the City of Wilmington together with New Hanover County made small business relief a priority for our American Rescue Plan funds. With the assistance of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, we are quickly and equitably putting millions back into the hands of local small businesses to support a broad-based economic recovery.”
Around 650 businesses applied, and 192 businesses met all qualifications for the grant. The county will be funding 106 companies with $2.3 million and the city will be funding 86 companies with $1.9 million.
“Our small businesses have suffered during the pandemic and need help to recover,” said New Hanover County Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman. “New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington are placing an emphasis on helping local business owners with cash they need to provide jobs and jumpstart our economy. This is now the second time New Hanover County has appropriated federal relief dollars to provide a lifeline to our local businesses after we committed $1.3 million in CARES Act funds last year for small businesses. I appreciate the city’s partnership, which made this assistance program go so much farther and I appreciate the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce stepping up to administer the program.”
Investing in hospitality and tourism is one way to promote economic recovery and economic development. Supporting these hardest-hit industries helps our community move forward faster. Of the 192 grant awardees, 136 are businesses owned by minorities, women, or veterans.
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English said, “I’m so proud of the collaborative efforts from New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington to help our businesses recover quickly and reposition themselves for growth. We know our hospitality, retail, and service-based businesses are a critical component of our local economy. New Hanover County will be stronger for this important grant investment that will save and create new jobs.”
In addition to the 192 businesses, the city is providing 35 non-profit organizations with $700,000. The city partnered with the United Way of the Cape Fear Area and Arts Council of Wilmington/New Hanover County to oversee the application process and to distribute the grants.
This additional community investment comes on the heels of a $3.5 million investment in affordable housing, $400,000 in workforce training, $200,000 to combat food insecurity among others and is part of a larger effort to put $9 million of ARPA funding into economic and community assistance.
A volunteer committee comprised of community members, including City Councilmembers Clifford Barnett and Kevin Spears, set the eligibility requirements, determined scoring criteria, and evaluated applications based on services the nonprofits provide, pandemic-related financial hardships, and if the nonprofit serves one or more underserved populations such as disconnected youth, low-income households, persons with disabilities, veterans, and others. Mayor Pro-Tem Margaret Haynes, community organizer Hollis Briggs, and Arts Council Secretary Elizabeth Carbone evaluated the arts-related applications.
“We asked community leaders to be the decision makers on where these dollars will go,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “City staff and council members played an important role, but the perspective of community leaders really shaped how we put these funds to work in the community and helped us put them to work quickly and equitably.”
“Our investment in these organizations builds upon the city’s longstanding strategic funding partnerships with nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations. This new funding will amplify their valuable cultural, economic, and positive health impacts as we all work together to recover from the pandemic,” said Mayor Saffo.