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Damian Giletto, Delaware News Journal
Delaware gave 4,580 businesses state-provided grants and loans during the pandemic, according to data provided by the state.
The aid came from two state-run programs that have since closed and totaled nearly $203 million.
The Hospitality Emergency Loan Program (dubbed H.E.L.P.) provided zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 per month to hospitality-related businesses.
The state launched it near the start of the pandemic to help the then-estimated 2,700 businesses in the hospitality industry who were expected to take a blow from the pandemic’s effect on the economy.
The loans were meant to cover immediate, unavoidable expenses.
The loan program was later expanded to include “personal care services” businesses such as barbershops, hair and nail salons, and beauty shops.
By the end of the program, which stopped accepting applications in October, 364 businesses received a total of $10.9 million.
That’s much less than was provided through the federally-paid business aid programs such as the CARES Act-funded DE Relief Grants, the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund and the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
The top earner of the loan was The Greene Turtle franchise, which has seven locations in Delaware. Data show that three different applicants — Pusan LLC, Turtle Time DE1 LLC and Turtle Time DE2 LLC — got a total of $892,450 through the loan program.
The applicants could not be reached for comment.
The second-highest earner was Harry’s Savoy Grill in Wilmington. The restaurant got about $345,200 in loans, according to the data.
Xavier Teixido, the owner, said the loans were “a little bit of a reassurance that we’d be able to operate” when banks were denying requests for lines of credit.
While the loans could only be used to cover specific expenses such as rent and utitlies, they helped the restaurant cover those expenses so they could continue to also pay workers, he said.
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Grant program spent $190 million
Thanks to the help of the federal CARES Act stimulus package, the state in August 2020 launched a new grant program — dubbed DE Relief Grants — that gave about $191.5 million to 4,216 businesses and nonprofits.
The program, which stopped accepting applications in December 2020, was created to help businesses cover COVID-19-related expenses such as personal protective equipment, plexiglass and refinancing pandemic-incurred debt (including H.E.L.P. loans), according to the Department of State.
When the program launched, it offered grants ranging from $30,000 to $100,000 to small businesses and nonprofits, though many businesses got up to $500,000. Once extra funding was available through the CARES Act, bonus allocations were given to disproportionately impacted industries, according to a spokesperson for the Division of Small Business which oversaw both pools of money. The size of the grant depended on the organization’s 2019 revenue.
The program was paid for by the federal CARES Act, which Congress passed in late March 2020, which was meant to help states and local governments cover coronavirus-related expenses, among other financial allocations.
The highest earners tended to be organizations that fund the arts in Delaware.
The top recipient of the fund was the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, a Selbyville-based 501(c)3 that funds programs to support the arts. It received $515,000 through the grant program.
The organization did not respond to request for comment.
Three New Castle County-based recipients got $500,000: the Delaware Art Museum, Grand Opera House and the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum.
According to Mark Nardone, Winterthur’s spokesman, the museum largely spent the money on laptops and other technology to let staff work from home. It also paid for COVID-related signage and infographics for visitors, as well as personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies, he said.
Mark Fields, the Grand’s executive director, said the funds were “instrumental” in preparing the organization to safely reopen its three theaters.
“It also allowed us to rehire some, but not all, of the staff that was previously let go after PPP funding expired in August of 2020,” Fields said.
The Delaware Art Museum’s executive director, Molly Giordano, said the funds were “critical” in helping the museum not have to close during the pandemic. They helped the museum fully reopen its galleries in the summer of 2020 and “continue offering a variety of outdoor and virtual programs for our community,” she wrote in an email.
“Much like the tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors, Delaware’s arts and culture organizations have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic’s economic fallout,” Giordano wrote. “Many institutions were shuttered and unable to operate in any capacity for a long time, resulting in massive revenue losses and mission disruption.”
New Castle County-based organizations received a total of $107 million — more than half of the total allotted aid. They made up 59% of recipients.
The highest recipient in Kent County, the least populated of Delaware’s three counties, was Sewell C. Biggs Trust, which runs a Dover art museum. It received just under $350,000.
The Division of Small Business could not provide the amount of grant and loan applications that were denied because those numbers were not available in their software system, according to spokesperson Jessica Welch. The division worked to make sure as many eligible businesses as possible could be approved for funding, she said.
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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.