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Oʻahu small businesses offered a slice of a $10M city grant

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City and County of Honolulu Office of Economic Revitalization
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The City and County of Honolulu's Office of Economic Revitalization, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaiʻi, will be launching the Oʻahu Business Recovery grant program on Jan. 30.

The program will award $10 million in grants, using money from the City's State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. It will accept 400 online applications, with grants ranging between $15,000 and $50,000 depending on a business' size.

To ensure the money is going to local companies, the program aims to only allow Oʻahu businesses that have endured a 25% drop in revenue or more during the COVID-19 pandemic to apply.

Applicants must also have generated between $75,000 and $5 million in gross revenue in 2019, and at least one of the owners must be a Hawaiʻi resident.

"Small businesses are the foundation of our economy and many are still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19," said Sherry Menor-McNamara, President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaiʻi.

"Even though we're a few years past [the pandemic], many of them are still climbing out of the deep hole," she said. "On top of that, many are facing other challenges such as the workforce shortage, inflation, supply chain issues and an economy where we don't know what will happen this year."

Some industries that heavily rely on tourism, such as the wedding industry, still haven't recovered from the drastic losses suffered during pandemic.

"It's been a really challenging time for so many businesses like ours," said Joseph Esser, a photographer and president of the Oʻahu Wedding Association.

"Because we're not a brick and mortar type of business, we didn't qualify for critical financial aid to stay afloat . . . This grant will provide much needed financial aid to small businesses on Oʻahu that have struggled for the past two years."

In an effort to reach as many local businesses as possible, the Chamber of Commerce is partnering with local ethnic Chambers to ensure business owners with English as a second language understand how to apply and have enough time to apply.

Grant applications will be available in Hawaiian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Tagalog and Spanish.

A webinar will be held on Jan. 11 at 2 p.m. to help business owners prepare for the application window opening. It can be viewed at www.facebook.com/oerhonolulu.

The application window will open on Jan. 30 at 8 a.m. through: revitalizeoahu.org/oahubizgrant.

Completed applications will be funded on a first-come, first-serve basis until the program exhausts all its funds.

For more information, contact the Chamber at OahuBizGrant@cochawaii.org.

Casey Harlow is an HPR reporter and occasionally fills in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Contact him at charlow@hawaiipublicradio.org or on Twitter (@CaseyHarlow).
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