Pitkin County’s grant program will allow up to $25k per business

Relief going to locally owned establishments; other funds going to help workers, families from Aspen to Parachute

Pitkin County’s new $1.3 million grant program for local businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic is set to begin later this week with more money available per business than originally planned, an official said Tuesday.

Initially, the county was going to cap the amount each business could receive at $10,000, though feedback from the business community convinced officials to push that limit to as much as $25,000, said Jon Peacock, county manager.

“We’re really encouraging the business community to take advantage of (this program),” Peacock told Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday at their regular work session. “We hope to get back to normal business activities (in the near future), but it will be a tough time for the next five-or-six weeks.”

Making more money available to businesses like restaurants makes sense because they are in one of the most highly impacted sectors with many public health order-related restrictions, he said.

The county is working on the application process with the Aspen Community Foundation, which will dole out the money. The main target for the program is locally owned businesses and not those that are part of a national or international chain, Peacock said.

“I want to make sure (the grant money) is getting into local hands,” Board Chairwoman Kelly McNicholas Kury said.

In order to be eligible for the program, a business must have a business safety plan on file with the public health department and have no closures or notices of violation related to public health orders. Businesses that have been issued warning letters from the department are eligible for grants.

Businesses also must be in good-standing financially, have a demonstrated urgency and proposed use for the funds and explain both the impact of COVID-19 on their business and the impact it had on gross and net revenues, Peacock said.

As of Tuesday, Pitkin County still had the 14-day highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in the state, Peacock said, though local epidemiological data pegged it Tuesday at 2,601 per 100,000 residents down from a peak of 3,165 on Friday. According to the New York Times on Tuesday, the county had the 20th highest seven-day incidence rate in the country.

As of Sunday, Pitkin County is under Red level restrictions, which closed all in-door restaurant dining.

In order to help residents and families between Aspen and Parachute who are out of work or otherwise in need, the county also will distribute $200,000 to local charities, Peacock said. Aspen Family Connections will receive $40,000 in January and another $40,000 in March, while Catholic Charities, Family Resource Centers at the Aspen School District and the Roaring Fork School District and LaMedichi, which provides financial education services, will get the same deal.

In addition, the Garfield 16 Family Resource Center and River Center of New Castle will receive $20,000 in January and another $10,000 in March, he said. Pitkin County Economic Assistance will receive the final $20,000.

The county will also spend $100,000 on a navigator program that businesses, families and individuals will be able to use to find out what local, state and federal resources are available.

The county recently received word that it will receive nearly $400,000 more in CARES Act funding it applied for recently, Peacock said. That means the county will receive a total of about $4.3 million, which it will share with Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt and the Aspen Ambulance District.

Pitkin County’s vaccination process also was on the agenda Tuesday.

Peacock said the county requested 1,500 more vaccine doses this week after dispensing 1,100 doses last week mainly to residents 70 years old and up. However, the state said the county will receive none this week.

“(The 1,500 dose request) was based on the state getting more vaccine from the federal government,” he said.

Colorado was expecting 210,000 doses from the federal government’s reserve supply. However, federal government officials have said that reserve does not exist. So instead of 210,000, Colorado will receive just 79,000, which meant Pitkin County gets none, Peacock said.

However, Gov. Jared Polis recently announced that 40,000 doses the state was holding to distribute as second doses will instead be distributed for first doses.

“So, it’s possible we will get some of those doses, but there’s no confirmation yet,” he said.

Pitkin County’s vaccination process is scalable, so the county will have no problem adjusting to the number of vaccine doses received when that time comes.

“We are prepared,” Peacock said. “As soon as we get the vaccine, we will get it into arms.”

County officials are also working on the next vaccination phase, which will include essential workers, he said. Officials from public health, municipalities, schools and businesses are putting together a priority list of those essential workers.

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