Andreas Afxendiou, owner of Athena Chicken in Maitland, had run a successful “Mom and Pop” restaurant since opening in 1988, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he was suddenly facing an uncertain future. In an effort to keep his doors open, he turned to the Orange County CARES Small Business Grant Program for financial help. He, along with nearly 8,000 local small business owners, received small business grants to stay above water and meet other unexpected expenses incurred due to the pandemic.
“For small businesses like us, we depend on sales to pay our employees, rent and other expenses,” said Afxendiou. “The Orange County grant money was definitely a big help – especially to smaller businesses such as mine.”
Orange County Government directed nearly $80 million in local CARES funding to local small and home-based businesses. In addition, 65 percent of those dollars went toward minority and women-owned businesses.
The Small Business Grant Program provided $10,000 grants, and the Micro-Grant Program for Home-Based Businesses provided up to $3,000 in assistance.
Business owners had discretionary use of the money to help with paying rent, meeting payroll, buying needed supplies and making their businesses safer with personal protective equipment or PPE, Plexiglas and other social distancing safety tools. Orange CARES money specifically targeted small businesses because much of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds received from the federal level only helped larger companies.
“We have 90,000 small businesses in Orange County, and they’re responsible for keeping our diverse economy strong and employing many of our residents,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. “We wanted to ensure our small businesses had access to funds and were not overlooked.”
Julia Pham, owner of Tango Nails and Spa in Orlando, believes small businesses need this kind of support right now. “We don’t have extra money sitting around for if and when a pandemic hits, so I appreciate the help from the County to support my business during these difficult times.”
Live2Row, the Ocoee-based fitness enterprise that opened five years ago, was forced to shut down for nearly 60 days due to COVID-19 restrictions. This prompted owners Justin Knust and Stephen Pryor to look for financial assistance programs being offered by the State and the County.
“When I saw the program the County rolled out, it seemed to target small businesses like ours that had slipped through the cracks in not being able to access federal funds,” explained Knust. “Having that grant helped ensure the lights stayed on and our rent was paid. It was the lifeline we needed.”
To learn more about the Orange County CARES Program for Small Businesses, visit ocfl.net/OrangeCares.