It goes without saying that this crisis is taking its toll on small businesses in Asheville and the surrounding areas. It's been difficult to witness the unfolding of such unprecedented closures and uncertainties - wishing there was a quicker solution to all this. But, this is one tough community and we have no doubt that no matter what, Asheville will pull itself up by its bootstraps and begin thriving again.
It's been a major goal of ours to stay on top of all the resources and information spinning out there so, once we are passed the distancing restrictions, we can empower local businesses to get their doors open again. Although the second half of March has been very difficult to withstand, the social distancing means there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. When that happens, let's arm our businesses with all the ammo needed to regain the momentum our city has been flourishing on for a decade now.
Buncombe County is ready to help. First thought of last year, 'One Buncombe' is the brainchild idea of County Manager Avril Pinder, who began working on the project at the beginning of her government term in 2019. Fast forward to March 2020, this project has a whole new meaning - now know as a "rapid relief fund," on March 24th, the Buncombe County Commissioners unanimously voted to get the ball rolling, so they can provide much needed financial assistance to local business owners and individuals.
Where do the funds for One Buncombe come from? Buncombe County officials will be pulling funding from local governments, businesses, foundations and individual angel contributors involved with the Buncombe County Service Foundation. This foundation is set up under the umbrella of the county and functions as a non-profit where they also administer community partnership grants. A few of the county commissioners are proposing that the One Buncombe fund also develop micro-grants for those sole-proprietor or two-person businesses where the slightest bit of more debt could potentially crush their company.
If you are one of the unfortunate individuals who lost their job due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you could apply for help with your 'essential living expenses' such as rent or utilities. For businesses with fewer than 50 employees, you qualify and could possibly receive a small, low-interest loan of up to $10k to help you reopen the doors to your operation and pay your employees.
The hard part of all this is, how many businesses are going to make it through and still be around in time to receive these funds? The uncertainty is the most difficult part of all of this. Finger's crossed and hopeful that this pandemic will be over sooner than later.
When will there be more updates about the loans allocated through One Buncombe? Look out for April 7th, a public hearing amongst the county commissioners where they will be deciding on and considering a $200k funding allocation for One Buncombe. This means there will be funding available for low-interest loans and, hopefully, micro-grants. The City of Asheville will also consider adding $100k to the pool funding. The city council members have set a meeting for April 14th to move further on this decision.
Anyone is welcome to donate to this very important organization. Donations will be accepted through the onebuncombe.org website. Relief cannot come soon enough. Let's keep working together to pick up the pieces of our community and put them back together again!