A San Mateo County comeback billboard in San Carlos, Calif., taken July 2020. (Photo courtesy of County of San Mateo Joint Information Center)

To support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, San Mateo County supervisors on Tuesday approved small business relief funds and passed a law that would allow home food sales.

First, the Board of Supervisors allocated $2 million of federal funding for small businesses that have not received other relief funding in the past year.

The 2021 SMC Strong Small Business Assistance Program would provide 200 grants of $10,000 each to qualifying small businesses.

To apply, businesses need to submit a short preliminary application and then grantees will be randomly selected.

This is different from previous grant programs which were administered on a first-come first-served basis, which put some businesses at a disadvantage if they did not have access to digital tools.

To help businesses apply, the county plans to continue partnering with the Peninsula Chinese Business Association and Environmental Innovations to provide door-to-door outreach in multiple languages.

Applications for this small business grant program will open in August. Then, the San Mateo Credit Union Community Fund will administer grants on a rolling basis in September and early October.

Second, the supervisors introduced an ordinance that would allow food sales from home kitchens.

The “Microenterprise Home Kitchen Operations” ordinance will create a process for permitting home kitchens under the county’s Environmental Health Services Division, in accordance with state law.

Director of the Environmental Health Services Division, Heather Forshey, said that the program was designed to create an entry into food business entrepreneurship by minimizing overhead and allowing people to use their residential space to make food.

The ordinance goes into effect in 30 days and will stay in place for a two-year pilot period.

The supervisors also allocated $238,000 of federal funds to the Health Services Division to cover the administrative costs of regulating these home food sales.

Forshey said that the county will begin accepting permit applications in August and permits will be issued in October.

Once the permits are issued, permit holders can apply for grant funding to help with startup costs, like food safety training, advertising, marketing and web presence. Permit holders could receive grants of $2,500, as the Board allocated $62,500 to provide grants to 25 permit holders.

Several people called in to Tuesday’s meeting to support the ordinance, including representatives from Shef, a home meals delivery platform, and Foodnome, an online legal marketplace for homecooked food in the U.S.

One Daly City resident who uses Shef said she’s had a good experience using the platform but has to travel to San Francisco to use a commercial kitchen.

“This takes away from time with our family and is an inconvenience since we have to transport our supplies and ingredients back and forth,” the caller said, adding that the new law would help families gain supplemental income while creating a more flexible schedule.

The county’s new law would mean that people could prepare food for sale in their own homes.

Third, the county allocated $500,000 to micro food businesses, such as cottage food operators, caterers, food trucks and food carts.

These businesses will be eligible for grants of $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000 each depending on the type of business. To be eligible, businesses must have a permit from the Environmental Health Services Division. Those that received grants from previous grant programs will not be eligible for this funding.

Funding for each of these initiatives comes from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The meeting agenda and a video recording of Tuesday’s meeting are available at https://sanmateocounty.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.