Press release from Buncombe County:
“The [One Buncombe] grant is truly a godsend, and I am blessed to have received the award,” exclaims Sala Amira Menaya-Merritt. The sole proprietor of It’s Amira M is one of 141 recipients of the third round of relief from the One Buncombe Fund aimed at providing financial assistance for small businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this latest round, $562,500 in grants were distributed with specific outreach to agriculture- and art-based businesses. This funding will help the retention or rehiring of 407 living-wage jobs at 141 small businesses. “This grant has been extremely helpful with all the COVID-related pivoting I have had to do. A couple of markets have been cancelled due to COVID, and this grant is a way to fill the gap until things open back up,” explains Menaya-Merritt.
To date, the One Buncombe Fund has provided $1.9 million and helped retain or rehire 1,100 jobs over the course of nearly two years. “As a local business in Asheville, the pandemic has been tough. We think of our employees as family, and the idea of paying a living wage is critically important,” notes Ginger Huebner with the Roots + Wings School of Art and Design. “When we applied for the One Buncombe Fund, the aim was to continue to pay our employees a living wage, and these grant dollars are helping us achieve that goal.”
Here are some highlights of the latest round of grants:
· 141 grant awards totaling $562,500 to Buncombe County-based small businesses and employees that have been highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
· The awards will support the retention or rehiring of 407 living-wage jobs (253 retained, 155 rehired).
· 40% of the awards are to sole-proprietor businesses that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and have had limited access to other relief programs.
· 136 of the 141 awards are to businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
o 69% of awards are to women-owned enterprises.
o 22% of awards are to enterprises owned by people of color.
o 75% of the awards are to historically underutilized businesses, which includes both women-owned and minority-owned enterprises.
· For 31% of awardees, this is the first relief they’ve been able to access; for another 41% of recipients, this is only the second program they’ve been able to obtain assistance from.
· Agriculture (7% of awards), artists (7%), health services (10%), personal care (9%), professional services (11%), restaurants/bars (10%), and retail (9%) were the local sectors with the most recipients.
· 18 different Buncombe County zip codes got at least one award.
From the onset of the pandemic, Buncombe County government recognized the need to assist small businesses. This innovative program provided immediate assistance to small businesses through low-interest loans and grants. The One Buncombe Fund would not have been a success without donations and the help of other local governments, area businesses, community members, and more. Buncombe County would also like to give special thanks to Mountain BizWorks for administering the program.