Santa Clara County is looking to implement a grant program for small businesses who got hit hard financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ironically, the funding will come from fines collected from small businesses that did not follow the rules implemented by the county during the pandemic.

Since the beginning of the pandemic Santa Clara County has issued 674 fines to small businesses that were breaking public health orders after numerous warnings from county officials. The total amount of those fines is $5.7 million, but so far much less has been collected.

Santa Clara County has been criticized for issuing more fines than any other county in the region and that the county should have put more focus on education and assistance with compliance.

“When I read press coverage about the outrage over supposed millions of dollars allegedly collected in business fines, and accusations that our county has been hostile to small businesses, it really gives me pause. The vast majority of businesses … were complying with the rules that admittedly worked to their economic detriment. I stand by our administration on this. We never had the intent to drain millions of dollars from the small business community.” – Supervisor Susan Ellenberg 

On Tuesday supervisors voted unanimously to take the funds received from the fines and redistribute them to small businesses. Once the program is put together the board will work with local financial institutions and community organizations to help implement the program.

“People are appealing, so we don’t know what other dollars will be collected. But, I believe at the Tuesday board meeting, it was about $400,000 that we had collected in fines over the last year or so. I’m sure it’ll go to smaller businesses. I’m sure it won’t go to the businesses that paid the fines. It’ll go out to other businesses that followed the rules.” – Board of Supervisors President Mike Wasserman

The board will vote next month about the details of the program and the application process for small businesses.

This piece was written by Zach Heilman on April 24, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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