Hancock business grants available, targeting COVID relief locally

by Geoff Fox

Money generated from the town’s partnership with Harvest’s medical cannabis business in Hancock will be re-invested into small businesses locally, town officials said last week.

Officials looked at the possibility of using $12,000 that is already in hand as a pot of money from which to give out a total of 20 grants to businesses on a first come, first serve basis. Each grant would be $500.

Applications for the grants will start to be accepted tomorrow, February 18.

Grants come from the Harvest partnership with the town, which began before the business opened in Hancock.

Grant applications can be picked up at Town Hall or downloaded from the town’s website and dropped off at Town Hall.

Town officials are not taking online applications or applications by email.

The $12,000 is an unbudgeted amount of money in the town’s coffers, said Mayor Ralph Salvagno. The mayor said he thought of the grant money to help businesses in Hancock affected by the COVID pandemic.

“I thought this would be a nice little re-investment in town,” he said.

The application asks for the business name and employer identification number, requires that a business be located in town limits. Applications also require submission of a W9, and a testimonial of how COVID impacted their business.

The mayor said the use of grant funds wouldn’t be restricted except that it wasn’t meant for covering wages or disbursements.

If a business is struggling to pay their electric bill, need to put a new sign up for when businesses reopen, or improvements to the store, all of those uses would be acceptable.

“It’s a nice thing that we can do that kind of shows we’re re-investing back into the town,” Salvagno said.

Salvagno also noted it’s already mid-February and starting later next month, people are going to start coming through town, so it would need to start soon.

“Just kind of throwing that out as an idea,” he said. “I think it’s a really good thing on behalf of this council to demonstrate our commitment to the business community and understanding what they’ve really gone through and helping them survive and flourish in the next year.”

Councilman Roland Lanehart, Jr. suggested giving the businesses a $500 gift card to places like Mr. Hardware, Walmart, or Home Depot so they could spend the money on their building or business.

However, Councilman Tim Boyer questioned how council could guarantee they’d use it on the business and not use the card on redoing their house.

Salvagno put the argument to rest by saying the business would have to say and show what the business has done with the grant money at the end of a certain amount of time.

He also noted the grants and submissions or what the business did with the money are all public documents and any person can look at the documents to see if everything was done accordingly.

Boyer also said if a business was struggling, $500 probably wouldn’t help them anyway, but under the current situation with COVID and everyone struggling, it could help a business survive another couple of months.

He also brought up an issue where County Commissioner Cort Meinelschmidt applied for and was granted money for Meinelschmidt Distillery during a round of restaurant relief late last year by the county.

Boyer noted that sitting councilmen had businesses and asked how officials should handle it.

Councilman Tim Smith, who owns the Fractured Banana on Main Street and Smith’s Auctions, said when it’s looked at, anyone sitting on council would not be eligible for the town’s $500 grant.

“We are the town government that’s got this thing in progress, so you can’t really apply for something you’re putting out there for yourself,” Smith said.

He also suggested not having lodging and restaurants eligible at first until they see where the grant process goes, which is for smaller businesses that are not eligible for state or county grants.

Salvagno said both were good points, as certain types of businesses have had COVID grant or assistance opportunities in the past few months.

“The hope is that this may be the first we do over time, or maybe it won’t be needed in the future,” he said.

Officials agreed the final wording of eligibility would exclude elected officials and town employees who own businesses from applying for the grant.