Small businesses, nonprofits crippled by pandemic gain shot at $5,000 grants

 In Latest Coverage

Small businesses and nonprofits crippled by the coronavirus pandemic can apply for $5,000 grants starting Wednesday in a Ventura County program set to distribute $10 million this year.

Applications for the program funded through the federal CARES Act can be found via through July 8. Officials say $5 million will be distributed to 1,000 businesses and nonprofits with another $5 million round set for later this year.

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved the program earlier this month along with a similarly funded $10 million program aimed at helping people who have fallen behind in rent payments because of the pandemic. Applications for the renters program are being accepted until July 1 at

The business grant is aimed at companies and nonprofits in the county that were forced to shut down, make layoffs or were otherwise wounded during the pandemic. The money can be used for costs including payroll, rent payments, personal protective equipment and some expenses related to reopening restrictions.

It is a grant not a loan, said Paul Stamper, deputy county executive officer.

“This is a direct infusion of cash to these businesses that need it,” he said, noting that one of the goals is to help companies avoid job reductions.

The need is so deep that involved organizations were flooded with inquiries when the Board of Supervisors started talking about the program in May. Hundreds of calls poured into the Ventura County Community Foundation, which is helping oversee the project.

“I think it just emphasizes how critical these funds are and how hard people have been working to keep their businesses and nonprofits afloat at this time,” said Vanessa Bechtel, CEO of the foundation. “It’s not just that businesses are experiencing disruption but they’re incurring incredibly significant costs as they work to reopen and keep their clients safe. It’s shocking.”

Bechtel expects there will be more applicants than funds available.

People who don’t receive grants in the first round will have a chance for the second round of funding later this year. But to be eligible for either of the rounds, people must apply by July 8, Bechtel said.

Applicants will have to describe how their organizations were impacted by the pandemic in ways that could include layoffs or loss in sales. Priority will be given to businesses that did not receive funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program or the Small Business Administration’s economic injury disaster program.

Companies aren’t eligible if they’ve already received aid through the Ventura County Rapid Response Fund.

“We want to aim for those who might have slipped through the cracks,” said Stamper.

In the first round of the grants, 25% of the funding will be dispersed in a lottery aimed at small businesses owned by minorities or women. Another 25% will be aimed at businesses and nonprofits in communities identified by the federal government as disadvantaged.

A third lottery, involving 50% of the first-round funding or $2.5 million, will be aimed at businesses and nonprofits across the county that meet eligibility requirements and did not receive grants in the other first-round lotteries.

Leaders of businesses and nonprofits can receive only one grant even if they own multiple organizations.

The requirements for eligible businesses and nonprofits include:

  • Maintaining a business license in Ventura County.
  • Being in operation on or before March 17.
  • Actual gross annual revenues of between $25,000 and $2 million.
  • Registering at for eligible businesses.

Applicants will have to provide electronic documents including a business license, tax documents and income or bank statements. Virtual information meetings will be held starting this week and can be found through

As of Tuesday, people can also send emails to Or they can call 805-600-2875.

Tom Kisken covers health care and other news for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at or 805-437-0255.

Start typing and press Enter to search