LIHU‘E — Thomas Fuquay had four devices open trying to apply for the county’s Small Business Boost Grant yesterday.
Fuquay, who owns Nom Kaua‘i in Kapa‘a, had been on the site refreshing since 8:55 a.m. The application opened at 9 a.m. Monday, and he wanted to be one of the first to get through.
By 9:07 a.m., 600 devices were on the site. The Credit Union’s portal was designed to handle the volume of applicants for a similar grant program on O‘ahu that saw about 500 applications an hour, a county spokesperson said Monday.
“We are humbled by the response, and it speaks to the immense need out there,” the county said in a Facebook post.
The Small Business Boost Grant offers a one-time $7,500 grant to businesses financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The money comes from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money given to the county from the state.
The county set aside $5 million to the program in partnership with several local credit unions that would facilitate the award. The funds will service about 600 businesses, and credit unions will take small cuts between 2.5% to 5%.
By 11:15 a.m., the county had already received 428 completed applications, and an alert appeared on the site telling small businesses that all applications would be placed on a waitlist to be reviewed in the order received.
Eligible businesses were required to show they were impacted financially by COVID-19, and would use the funds for payroll, safety measures, reinvestment into the business.
“Examples of re-investment into the entity in light of the new COVID-19 landscape include: technology, education, new business plan and execution, new market strategy to re-focus on local market, or other expenses related to generating revenue or curbing expenses,” the grant’s website said.
Applicants must have been in business for a least a year on Kaua‘i with at most 20 employees and “intend to remain in business on Kauai amidst the new COVID-19 landscape.”
Alan Van Zee of Hawaiian Island Juice logged in at 9:01 a.m. He tried for an hour straight to get through to the application, stopped, then started again.
“I had a feeling it was going to be like this,” he said.
Around 1:30 p.m., he started trying again and got through. The application took him about a half-hour, which he said “wasn’t that bad.”
Van Zee said he’s operating on about 20% of revenue from pre-pandemic figures. To be accepted into this grant program would allow him a fighting chance “to be able to have enough income and revenue to keep afloat to get through the pandemic.”
“For myself, when you’re a small business owner, you fall through crack sometimes because you don’t fit a mold,” he said, sharing that he’s been trying to get a hold of the unemployment office for months.
Fuquay’s Nom Kaua‘i was transitioning from its location near the Big Save in Kapa‘a to Coconut Marketplace when lockdowns and restrictions kicked up earlier this year. They hope to reopen in October, but that’s up in the air.
Fuquay said that $7,500 isn’t life changing, but it would do a lot for his business, going into payroll for his employees. He’s kept a few core members on staff and continues to pay into insurance for his employees. He’d gotten his business into the Paycheck Protection Program, but that didn’t cover everything.
“(The grant) is good for businesses who get it, but not everybody will,” Fuquay said. “It shouldn’t be a quick lottery for whoever has the best internet connection.”
The county’s expecting to notify applicants of the status of their application by the end of the week.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.