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Augusta businesses to get relief with Commission’s COVID-19 program



AUGUSTA, Ga. – The impacts of the pandemic are still hitting our local businesses hard, and the city of Augusta is stepping in once again to lend a hand.

“The 2020 year was a challenge no doubt about it,” Jim Christian said.

Christian is the manager at Savannah River Brewing Co., and like many local businesses, he’s hoping for a better year.

“Everything helps every little bit but any kind of relief that we could get,” he said.

And the city of Augusta has help on the way.

“Some of the programs we have right now have already been enacted. All we’ve done is sort of reallocate and revise,” HUD Director Hawthorn Whelcher said.

At Tuesday’s commission meeting, city leaders passed the updated COVID-19 premier relief package. In addition to the original small business loan of $5,000, HUD is now offering loans for some businesses of up to $15,000.

“We looked at the situation and say ‘Hey, from a data perspective, from a tracker perspective, originally we were only giving up to $5,000’ and that went on pretty good. But we still think that the pandemic is still here…,” Whelcher said.

They also raised the maximum employee number for qualification below 100 employees and sped up the process to deliver the money in about ten days.

“We know that businesses are hurting, we know that purses are hurting,” Whelcher said.

The commission also waived alcohol license fees for the year.

“It’s good not to have to pay it this year because we went through all last year at reduced, you know, capacity and reduced service reduced sales. And we had to pay the whole thing last year, so it’s good to get the break this year,” Christian said

The Sustain Augusta Relief Program not only features the help for local businesses, but it also includes new efforts to house the homeless as well.

This entire program is worth almost $5 million of relief.

The loan eligibility amount is based on a tiered system. They’ve been able to provide two tiers, so the program is able to help small businesses that have 20 or fewer employees, they are able to get automatic $7,500 in relief. And then those businesses that are between 21 to 100 employees, they were to get up to $15,000 in relief.