How San Mateo County is supporting businesses with new COVID relief fund
San Mateo County supervisors on Tuesday approved a relief fund of up to $ 5.8 million for local businesses that have lost sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program – the “San Mateo County Environmental Health Fee Relief Program” – covers annual licensing fees for local businesses that are overseen by the county’s environmental health services division.
The division oversees more than 14,000 businesses in the county by performing inspections, issuing permits, responding to complaints and ensuring businesses comply with state regulations. The division charges companies an annual fee to cover the cost of these services.
The fees can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars for large companies.
Supervisor Dave Pine, who co-sponsored the proposal with Supervisor Warren Slocum, said the relief fund was a local effort.
“A business in my district, Nuts for Candy, brought to my attention a series of county bills that were due amid the darkest days of COVID economic restrictions,” Pine said. “So on the one hand, we were setting up various programs to support small businesses, but on the other hand, we were sending them these license fee renewals.”
With the relief fund, eligible businesses monitored by the division would receive funding to cover the cost of annual fees, starting in the July 2021 billing cycle.
The relief funding would help approximately 5,400 businesses, with a focus on small businesses and industries most affected by the pandemic, such as retail and food, public pools and spas, body art and massage, hospitality, commercial and industrial sectors.
Heather Forshey, director of the environmental health services division, said they aimed to facilitate access to relief.
“To do this, our strategy has focused on identifying entire categories of permits or industries, rather than having teams of environmental health personnel review our database and determine company eligibility. by business, ”Forshey said.
They plan to create an online process whereby qualifying businesses will automatically have the credit applied to their next annual bill.
While most retail food businesses like cafes, bakeries, confectioners, breweries and wineries would be eligible, larger markets would need to submit a certification form proving that they are independent and have two or fewer locations in the county.
Those larger markets will receive the attestation form by post or email, Forshey said.
John Hutar, president and CEO of the San Mateo County / Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, thanked the supervisors for their leadership.
“This is a great example of the board listening to small businesses,” Hutar said, adding that it would help businesses get back on their feet as the state plans to reopen on June 15.
According to a staff report, about 5% of food retail businesses regulated by the Environmental Health Services Division had closed permanently due to the pandemic.
Others are in danger of closing.
Amy Buckmaster, president and CEO of Chamber San Mateo County, a local chamber of commerce, said it will take years for most small business owners to fully recover from the impact of the pandemic.
“As we all celebrate the return of full tables in restaurants, shoppers in stores and office workers in the months to come, we don’t see credit card bills, unpaid rents, 401k accounts collected. or loans used to survive the past. 15 months, ”Buckmaster said in a statement.
The total cost of the program is estimated at $ 5,754,008. But because the number of qualifying businesses can fluctuate, the board approved a $ 5.8 million fund.
The Environmental Health Services Division will contribute $ 650,000 to the fund from its reserves. The remainder will come from the county general fund and will be repaid through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the economic stimulus package approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March.