CHARLESTON, W.Va.¬†—¬†Clendenin business owner Sug Sams had a Diet Coke in her hand and a smile on her face Monday at the state capitol after learning about the new RISE West Virginia program for small businesses impacted by the June 23 flood.

“We have to get restocked for the citizens,” Sams said of her Sams Auction business. “This will help us restock it and my goal is that within two weeks to be back in regular business thanks to the (West Virginia) Chamber of Commerce and the governor’s grant.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, House of Delegates Tim Armstead and others unveiled the new program at a Monday morning news conference. Small business owners in 12-county flood zone can apply for grants of up to $10,000, which won’t have to be paid back, like loans. Eligibility will be based on need and recommendations from a review committee. Larger grants may be available for special circumstances.

A grant of this size could be significant for small business owners, Tomblin and Armstead both said.

“They work on a very small margin and what $10,000 would do for a lot of those would be very helpful,” Tomblin said.

“That may not sound like a lot but to be able to put drywall up or to clean out their businesses or to restock things, that will really be a help to them,” Armstead said.

The program is a public-private partnership between the state and the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Tomblin’s goal is reach a minimum of $2 million. Part of the state’s share will come from the Racetrack Modernization Fund. Tomblin said the owners of the casinos in West Virginia said they will not apply for the funds this year in order to help the long term flood recovery effort.

West Virginia native, chairman and CEO of software giant Intuit, Brad Smith is co-sponsoring the program. His family has committed a $500,000 donation. Smith’s company will donate free products to small businesses, like QuickBooks accounting, to help with the recovery.

“West Virginia residents and small businesses inspire the world through their strength and resilience,” Smith said in a news release from the governor’s office. “So many have benefited from what our state, local communities and neighbors have invested in us over the years. This is our opportunity to show our appreciation and support by helping rebuild and strengthen these communities, being there for those who have always stood by us, and setting the foundation for an even brighter future. I hope that all West Virginia natives across the globe are inspired to participate in RISE West Virginia.”

The federal Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans to business owners but Rainelle Mayor Andy Pendleton said that’s just not an option for many businesses in her town.

“An SBA loan is four percent. That’s a loan on top of a loan,” she said.

Not long after the flood, House Speaker Armstead urged help for small businesses, perhaps by using money from the Rainy Day fund. He said RISE West Virginia is better because it will get money into the hands of business owners more quickly.

“If we would have done it as a special session it could be later in the fall before we could get this underway,” Armstead said. “I really appreciate the willingness of the governor, the Development Office and the Chamber of Commerce to work together to try and get this done immediately.”

Sams predicted Monday RISE West Virginia could make a bleak situation for approximately 40 Clendenin businesses look a whole lot better.

“Now—-I’d say we’re 99 percent to 100 percent coming back,” she said.

Additional information from the governor’s announcement:

To be considered, small businesses must be located in one of the 12 counties included in the federal disaster declaration, have had a verifiable and operational business at the time of the June 2016 flooding, and be in good standing with the state. The review committee will look at each business’s commitment to retaining or creating jobs, among other considerations.

Additional information, including a link to the grant application, will be available online through West Virginia’s official flood recovery website, www.wvflood.com, beginning Tuesday, July 26.

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