Board of Supervisors announces new $2.8 million COVID-19 relief package

by Contributed Content on July 21, 2021

The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has provided a lifeline to struggling local small businesses as part of a $2.8 million COVID-19 relief package.

The package includes new emergency relief for small-scale food-service entrepreneurs such as food truck operators and other small business hit hard by the pandemic. The Board also launched a pilot program for home-based chefs to prepare food in their own kitchens for sale directly to consumers.

This is the first time the County has specifically targeted relief to operators of  “micro food businesses.”

The food service industry was hit hard because shut-downs required most people to stay home and avoid gathering, a death knell for small-scale operators who could not quickly pivot to take-out or set up expensive outdoor, socially distant eating areas.

“Businesses such as food trucks, food carts and incubator kitchens are a means for entrepreneurs to build enduring enterprises,” said Supervisor Dave Pine. “Helping these small businesses will benefit our local economy now and in the future.”

Supervisors today approved three grant programs, one open for any eligible small business and two targeting the food service industry.

Food Trucks, Food Carts and More
First, the Board launched the Micro Food Business Grant Program, which will distribute a total of $500,000 in grants to eligible cottage food operators, caterers, food truck and food cart operators, commissaries or incubator kitchens.

Applicants must have a current small food-service business lawfully operating in San Mateo County before Jan. 1, 2021, and meet income and other eligibility requirements. Businesses that received relief under certain prior programs are not eligible.

Dishing Up Food from Home
Second, the Board approved establishing the Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operators Ordinance, Pilot Program and Grant Program with $238,000 in seed funding.

Under the pilot program, home-based chefs can legally make and sell limited amounts of food directly to consumers. The County is one of only a handful of jurisdictions in California to allow microenterprise home kitchens.

Chefs who receive operating permits from the County’s Environmental Health Services division will be able to apply for grants of up to $2,500 apiece.

Information about Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations, including instructions on how to apply for a permit, can be found at smchealth.org/microkitchen.

SMC Strong: Relief for Small Businesses
Third, the Board allocated $2 million for the 2021 SMC Strong Small Business Assistance Program. The program provides a fresh round of funding for local, small businesses impacted by the pandemic and did not receive prior County, state or federal relief.

Applicants must meet certain requirements for grants of up to $10,000 that can be used for past-due rent, operating expenses and other needs.

Since the pandemic began, the County, foundations, charitable organizations and individual donors have all contributed to the SMC Strong Fund, which through two rounds of funding has already provided grants to almost 1,000 small businesses. The new 2021 SMC Strong Small Business Assistance Program will build upon that success.

Funds for all three programs will come from the federal American Rescue Plan or through other state or federal relief programs.

Application information for the Micro Food Business Grant Program and 2021 SMC Strong Small Business Assistance Program will soon be available.

InMenlo file photo (c) 2012

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