YUBA CITY—As the extent of the economic carnage of the COVID-19 shutdowns was becoming clear last March at the very beginning of the pandemic, the Sutter County Board of Supervisors began searching for ways to help local businesses stay afloat.
At a special meeting on March 31 the Board of Supervisors authorized $250,000 from the County’s General Fund to be used for no interest emergency loans to businesses in Yuba City, Live Oak, and the unincorporated community, and asked the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corporation to administer the program at no cost to the County or the borrower.
At the time, the County was uncertain what relief would be coming from the state or federal governments. Supervisors knew it was a gamble they must take, even if the loans were never paid off.
In June, President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, and since that time the Board of Supervisors has authorized $4 million in direct community support, beginning with forgiving the repayment debt on many of the loans issued after the March 31 meeting.
In a series of three rounds of resiliency grants, the Board has provided $2,975,986 in grants to 160 small businesses and 33 non-profit agencies operating in Yuba City, Live Oak, and the unincorporated areas of the counties.
These grants, awarded to businesses and nonprofits who had suffered losses directly attributed to shut-down orders, provided up to $20,000 to help keep the organizations afloat. The County also contributed $10,000 to the Yuba City Downtown Business association to support expansion of outdoor dining to keep restaurants open.
"Many of the businesses we worked with were panic stricken, especially in the beginning," said Brynda Stranix, President/COO of Yuba-Sutter Economic Development. "The loans and grants provided them hope at a time they were really struggling. Spreading the funding out in three rounds of six months proved to be smart. Some of the businesses were really struggling by the fourth quarter of 2020."
One of the 160 small businesses receiving a grant is the Gibbs Group, an international commercial product engineering, manufacturing, and consulting firm based in Yuba City.
"Gibbs Group wishes to give a ‘Big Thanks’ to Sutter County and YSEDC for assisting us in being awarded a grant during this time of economic trials," said Cindy Gibbs. "Acting in good faith, our company reduced our fees with our client, resulting in cuts in payroll and other necessary admin expenditures. The grant helped us return to some normalcy during this troubled time, which the team at Gibbs Group is so thankful for."
The Board has also authorized $145,875 for emergency food programs through United Way and the Yuba-Sutter Food Bank, and thousands of dollars to help pay expenses for parents who had increased child care costs due to school closures.
Through the Economic Resiliency Grant program to date, 160 small businesses averaged $15,078 in grants, and the 33 non-profits averaged $12,794. The businesses included restaurants, fitness centers, salons, law firms, real estate firms, shoe stores, consulting firms, antique sellers, candy shops, coffee shops, floor covering stores, photographers, and consulting firms.
"We wish to thank Sutter County and YSEDC for the generous grant we received," said Denise Burbank with the Burbank Insurance Agency of Yuba City. "These funds will be very beneficial in keeping our business open so we may continue to serve our community. Thank you!"
Non-profit organizations receiving assistance included foster family agencies, service clubs, youth sports organizations, law enforcement support organizations, theatre groups, diabetes support group, a legal center for seniors, Yuba Sutter Arts and Culture, housing groups, the SAYLOVE community cleanup group, a pet fostering agency, and organizations working with the homeless.
Board Chairman Dan Flores said the county acted early and developed a fair and simple process for business owners.
"The Board was very quick to respond, and we’ll continue to see what we can do to help local businesses and the rest of our community get back on their feet and move forward,” Flores said. “This was a very significant and very important investment in direct support to the community. Not every local government agency chose to go this route with their CARES Act funding, but we thought it was important to get as much money out as possible into the hands of the local businesses, whose owners and employees were asked to make incredible sacrifices in the shut down."