North County small business economic development
Cute Cakes, an Escondido small business, is part of Innovate 78, a local business booster. Photo credit: @78Corridor, via Facebook

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously voted to provide $30 million in grants to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as soon as federal or state stimulus dollars are available.

County staff will develop the grant program, and each supervisor’s office will choose the recipients.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who made the proposal along with colleague Joel Anderson, said it was important to support small businesses, who were “asked to sacrifice their livelihoods for the greater good” once the pandemic began.

The county’s many mom-and-pop stores “are (the) backbone of our local communities,” she added. “This is the right thing to do.”

Anderson said that in his district, many are “living on the edge due to the pandemic.”

“Many may not fully understand what these people go through,” he said, adding that those facing unemployment have to consider how to afford food, while also holding on to their housing, car and insurance.

“Moving money forward to keep employers alive is so important to our county,” Anderson added. “I love it when we all can come together to lift those in our community.”

To be eligible, small businesses must employee fewer than 20 people, and comply with state and local public health guidelines.

Supervisor Jim Desmond noted that the 20 employees-or-fewer requirement was a little restrictive, and suggested that businesses with up to 100 employees be eligible. Lawson-Remer said the original number was intentional.

She added there has been a long history of “companies jumping to the head of the line” in terms of funding.

The county program is to “support those really small businesses that are struggling,” she said. “We’re not trying to support multi-billion dollar companies.”

In a related action during its Tuesday meeting, the Board of Supervisors also unanimously approved a two-month COVID-19 paid leave policy for county employees. Anderson described the action as a vital lifeline to workers.

The policy mirrors and extends the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed by Congress last year and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump.

County Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer will negotiate with labor unions as part of forming a paid family leave policy, including a compensation ordinance. Any policy change will need board approval.

Updated at 7:00 p.m. Feb. 9, 2021

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