SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has expanded a grant program to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.
At a news conference Tuesday, the mayor announced the new round of grants of up to $35,000 for businesses with less than 100 employees. It's an expansion of a grant program the county previously offered that had tougher restrictions. Now, those have been loosened up.
"It’s open now to all business types," said Dina Blaes, the director of Salt Lake County Regional Economic Development.
The county has about $35 million at its disposal through the CARES Act, said Blaes. With no end to the pandemic in sight, Mayor Wilson elected to expand the program to help more businesses impacted.
"Please help us run out of money. That’s what we want. We would like the program to end as quickly as possible meaning we’d like to give out as much as we can. But we do want to make sure we’re responding to the needs," Blaes told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.
The new round of grants are a welcome sign for many minority-owned businesses, said Silvia Castro, the director of the Suazo Business Center. What makes them different is they are not loans like other federal assistance.
"What’s great about this is it’s a grant. It’s a grant that can be applied directly to the business, to operating capital, to cover payroll," she told FOX 13.
Mayor Wilson said economic numbers show things improving for Salt Lake County in the latter-half of this year.
"From the very moment this hit us in March, I’ve been focused on health interventions but economic recovery as well," she said in an interview with FOX 13.
Mayor Wilson said the county has seen encouraging data showing that her mandate for face coverings in all public places is working. COVID-19 cases have been decreasing, even though the mayor said anecdotally, she is starting see people lapse in remembering their face masks.
"We’re feeling good about the requirement here in the county and we’re hoping for a statewide requirement. That’s what will move the needle further," she said.
Asked if she has pushed Governor Gary Herbert about a statewide mandate, Mayor Wilson said she had.
"I pushed him last week. It’s time, and we are now in that window of time where he said August 1 and so I’d love to hear from him this week," Mayor Wilson told FOX 13.
Gov. Herbert said he had a goal of seeing Utah hit a rolling average of 500 cases of COVID-19 by Aug. 1. As of Tuesday, the state's 7-day rolling average was 541, which has been a drop in recent days.
Mayor Wilson also said she had concerns about schools re-opening. In previous interviews, she told FOX 13 she was not sure she would send her own kids back to class. On Tuesday, the mayor said she was still watching the situation alongside the Salt Lake County Health Department.
"I think it’s a little better with a high schooler, but I worry about families and our health as an overall concern. I feel like as a parent, I want my kids to learn. I’m tired of the computer for them. We do our best to get them out. But it’s tough and as a parent, I get it," she said of her own situation. "But when you look at the large number of kids we have in our state? The fact that we have a lot of overcrowding and not all schools have the capacity to assure health, also the nature of kids, I do have concerns and we’re watching it closely."