(Photo by SherryK Cash on Flickr)

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors this week unanimously approved making $10 million in grants available to small business owners who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Business owners will have access to grants of up to $25,000 to cover missed rent and mortgage payments through the funding, which the board approved at its meeting Tuesday.

Assistant County Administrator Matt Paulin said the grants would also be available to businesses that have spent heavily on personal protective equipment for employees, and businesses such as restaurants that built outdoor dining structures before the state’s stay-at-home order forced restaurants to pause indoor and outdoor dining.

Supervisor Chuck Winn praised the county for the loose criteria about what is reimbursable through the grant program, arguing that the county should not be “determining winners and losers.”

“I think what Matt’s provided is appropriate because it makes no distinction as to the type of business or the type of individual that would benefit,” Winn said. “I think that’s what we should be doing.”

According to Paulin, the funding could help as many as 400 small businesses if they all receive the maximum grant amount.

The board also approved $5 million in grants for county residents who are behind on rent or mortgage payments as a result of the pandemic. The combined $15 million in grants will come out of the county’s general fund.

“If you’ve lost your job, or if your hours have been reduced … or even if you’ve been able to keep up with your rent and mortgage but you’ve fallen behind on other bills, that would be clearly demonstrated COVID-related harm and we want to entertain those requests as well,” Paulin said.

Board Chair Katherine Miller suggested continually allocating funding toward grants to support residents and businesses who are struggling financially because of the pandemic, particularly if federal legislators approve a new funding package that includes money for local governments.

“Especially this time of the year, the last thing you want is people having to make decisions between keeping their lights and their heat on and putting food on the table,” Miller said.