Applications are now being accepted for the grant program designed to help merchants and officials want to begin dispensing money by the first of the year.

Malheur County has kicked off a relief program for local businesses hammered by the Covid epidemic. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

VALE – Malheur County is coming to the rescue of local businesses hit by Covid, preparing to hand out more than $700,000 to qualifying businesses.

The county is now taking applications with a priority to help businesses in the hospitality industry, merchants impacted by the recent Covid freeze and small businesses, women, black, indigenous, people of color and tribal-owned businesses.

The number of eligible businesses couldn’t be determined, but the county listed 150 in the hospitality business in Malheur County.

The $768,183 in state money will be dispensed in the form of a grant, with the amount based on a businesses’ number of full-time employees, up to $5,000 per worker.

To qualify, a business must be based in Malheur County and, according to the county, “demonstrate a one-month decline in sales of 25% or more, incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, between March 1, 2020, and November 30, 2020, as compared against the same period of time in 2019.”

If a business doesn’t want to provide documentation of a 25% loss, it can instead list of necessary and unbudgeted expenditures incurred because of Covid.

The application is open to businesses with no more than 100 full-time workers. The forms are available on the county’s website at www.malheurco.org.

The deadline to apply is Dec. 23, at 5 p.m. Completed applications can sent by email to [email protected], mailed to the Malheur County Court, Malheur County Courthouse, 251 B. Street West, Vale Oregon, 97918, or placed in the secure drop box behind the courthouse.

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Questions about the program can be emailed to [email protected].

County officials said they want to distribute the money no later than the first week in January 2021.

The money is Malheur County’s share of $55 million that Gov. Kate Brown released to help local businesses deal with a new round of business restrictions, many of which are expected to last through December.

“I know that is not enough. I remain committed to fighting for additional resources at the federal level,” Brown said.

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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