County awards grants to 132 small businesses hurt by the pandemic

ALBANY COUNTY — The pandemic and its restrictions hurt local businesses, leading the county to what Andrew Joyce called “a big idea, a bold idea.”

Albany County offered half-a-million dollars to small businesses who suffered from COVID-19, in grants up to $5,000 each.

On Thursday, officials announced, of the 268 applicants, 171 were eligible, and 132 will be awarded grants on Friday.

Among the recipients were Bella Fleur and Hungerford Market, both women-owned businesses in Altamont.

Joyce, who chairs the county’s legislature, said the money was distributed in “a defensible, fair, and equitable way.” He also said, “There’s more work to be done.”

More than half of the awards are going to minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and veteran-owned businesses, said Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy.

“We were able to grant them more awards because the need was so high,” said Linda MacFarlane, executive director of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region, which made the selections.

She said that minority-owned and women-owned businesses had received much less federal funding than non-minority, male-owned businesses.

MacFarlane’s organization will provide free technical assistance to all the applicants in a series of online workshops.

To be eligible for the grants, a business had to: be located in Albany County, have 50 or fewer employees, generate sales tax, and have lost 25 percent of its revenues or more because of COVID-19.

The grant program came about because of work done by the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, made up of three county legislators: Chairwoman Wanda Willingham, a Democrat who has represented Arbor Hill since 1999; Matthew Peter, a Democrat representing District 5 in Albany; and Jeff Perlee, a Republican representing Altamont, Guilderland Center and part of the Hilltowns. 

The Albany County Legislature on Dec. 7 had initially approved $300,000 for the grant program with another $100,000 in the 2021 county budget. On Dec. 21, the legislature approved another $200,000.

The program is administered by the Advanced Albany County Alliance LDC, which was formed in November, through a partnership with the Community Loan Fund. 

“This is local government at its best,” said Joyce on Thursday.

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