ASHEVILLE – A local aid program is now available for Buncombe County workers and small businesses affected by coronavirus shutdowns.
The One Buncombe Fund, whose start-up time was in question only a few days prior, went live March 27 after moves to fast-track it.
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The fund’s website is onebuncombe.org. Here are the details, according to a release from the county:
Residents of Asheville or any other part of the county are eligible for direct assistance grants if they lost employment due to COVID-19.
- Grants are for “life-essential” needs caused by the outbreak, such as electric bills, deposits, fuel oil, kerosene, natural gas, propane, wood, mortgages and overnight lodging.
- Funds are paid to the service provider, not directly to individuals.
- Aid seekers will go through county social workers who will check for other forms of public and private assistance, such as unemployment insurance. (One Buncombe Fund won’t duplicate those types of aid.)
- Social workers will also make referrals to Health and Human Services partners to help alleviate any immediate crisis an applicant is facing.
To ask questions or apply, contact COVID-GA@buncombecounty.org or call 828-250-5500.
Businesses can qualify if they have a physical location in Buncombe and are principally based in the county. They must have fewer than 50 full- and part-time employees and a demonstrated loss of revenue of 25% or more from the COVID-19 crisis. They must also agree to provide impact data.
- Qualifying businesses can get loans up to $10,000.
- Eligible uses include payroll, accounts payable, fixed debts or other bills the business is unable to pay due to the outbreak.
- During the initial six-month period, there will be no payments of any kind. Interest will accrue at 4% during the six-month period but will be rolled up into the loan and paid at the end of the six-month period.
- Loans will be designed to provide low-cost bridge funding to help businesses stay open and limit job losses until they qualify for longer term disaster aid from the US Small Business Association or other sources.
- Loan underwriting and administration will be provided by Mountain BizWorks, a nonprofit community development financial institution.
For full details and to apply online visit mountainbizworks.org/one-buncombe-fund/. If you have questions, contact Jeremiah Robinson at 828-253-2834 ext. 14.
Donations are tax-deductible to the Buncombe County Service Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving as fiduciary for all One Buncombe Fund donations.
To donate online:onebuncombe.org.
To donate by check: Make payable to “Buncombe County Service Foundation” and mail to:
Buncombe County Service Foundation
200 College St., Suite 300
Asheville, NC 28801
*Please make sure to note that funds are for “One Buncombe Fund.”
Members of the public who have questions about donating, please contact Angelyn Johnson at Angelyn.Johnson@buncombecounty.org.
How it came together
In the wake of an estimated 10,000 county job losses in one week’s time, leaders from businesses, nonprofits and local government began working on an aid program. The intent was to quickly help those who were waiting for other forms of assistance or who might not qualify for some types of aid.
Still, it was in doubt how fast One Buncombe could start. Asheville and county governments collectively plan to add $300,000 but are required to hold public hearings first, and those will happen in April.
Then private donations started to come in, said Kit Cramer, president of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce who is serving as chair of One Buncombe.
“I was so pleased that people stepped up so quickly,” Cramer said, noting donations included $100,000 from Biltmore Lake Charitable Fund, $100,000 from the Ramble and $50,000 from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.
“I even got a call when I was coming home for another $5,000 contribution — this one from the French Broad Food Co-op.”
Along with aid to individuals, Cramer said the business loans could prove crucial in helping Asheville keep its identity, assisting those “who have put their hearts and souls into establishing the businesses that make this area so special, so authentic and unique,” she said. “They are at extreme risk of not being able to restart.”
Grants not loans?
Some business owners, though, said the type of aid offered won’t be enough to save them.
Jane Anderson, director of Asheville Independent Restaurants Association, said she’s spoken with owners of various eateries who say they wouldn’t be able to pay back a loan.
“I think one thing most of our restaurants would say is low-interest loans are fine, but they are going to need grants to start up again. I try to talk to several every day, different kinds of places. A lot of them are saying, ‘For me just to reopen the doors at this time, I’m going to have to have $25,000 to $50,000.'”
Cramer said there are discussions about starting a grant program, and whether it would be legal. But the amounts offered would be smaller than what Anderson has talked about, she said.
“There’s just not that much money,” Cramer said.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
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