Small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are still able to apply for the city’s ARPA Small Business Grant for up to $25,000 of relief.
Eppig Pig Brewing’s Vista headquarters opened in late 2019, just three months before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’d only been open for about three months in Vista before COVID shut everything down,” said Todd Warshaw, CEO of Eppig Pig Brewing. “It was pretty frustrating. All of our traffic the first few months were people coming after work, and for more than a year nobody went to their office.”
Wary of the struggle small businesses were facing, last November the City of Vista used funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funding to begin a small business grant program for those in Vista who have experienced economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city dedicated $2.7 million to the program, administered by the Vista Chamber of Commerce, that awarded funds to businesses that qualified based on selection criteria and demonstrated financial loss.
“There [are] still funds available,” said CEO of the Vista Chamber of Commerce Rachel Beld. “We rolled it out last November and it’s still underway. We’ve been able to support a number of businesses with business grants anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000. It’s an incredible opportunity to support these businesses.”
Beld went on to say that the program is receiving applications through November 2022 or until all the funds are spent. “Give us a call or hop on our website [vistachamber.org] to submit an application,” said Beld. “If you have questions, you can contact our office.” Assistance is available in English and Spanish by calling 760-726-1122, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“With the city grants, it was a very easy process,” said Joe Henschel, CEO of The Steeping Giant. “The City of Vista was amazing.”
The Steeping Giant opened their Vista doors at the beginning of 2020. Their non-traditional business model sells kegged coffee on tap to offices, restaurants and breweries, three of the most heavily impacted spaces during the pandemic.
“I remember the day in March when we had a full van of kegs going up to Orange County,” said Henschel. “I started getting those phone calls from the offices, saying ‘Hey, we’re going to be going home, and we don’t know how long. Maybe a week or two.’ That lasted until the end of 2020. Then around September, I had to lay off everyone that worked for us, including myself.”
“What a lot of people don’t realize is we’re still bearing the brunt of the last two years,” said Warshaw. “I got really good at filling out government forms, which is a sad thing to be good at. But most of that funding was in 2020 and 2021. We’re still paying back stuff that was deferred from 2020.” Eppig Brewing Company was awarded a $15,000 grant from the City of Vista, which Warshaw said will go completely to rent. “This money that is coming on the late side is a relief. There’s somebody out there that realizes we’re not back to normal. We’re still paying the seven figures of loss from the last two years.”
Funds from the small business grant are still rolling out to businesses that have applied. The Vista Chamber of Commerce has also used the grant program as an added way to connect with businesses on a personal level. “Like any other human being, we can’t be accurately represented by facts and figures,” said Beld. “It’s been really moving to be able to connect with the businesses and communicate to them, ‘Thank you for submitting your application. You’ve been approved. You’ll be receiving a check in the mail.”
Beld continued, “To be able to make those calls and tell folks ‘Help is on the way,’ is really rewarding. It’s like Christmas morning.”
Vista Mayor Judy Ritter said local businesses can continue to look to the city and chamber for assistance they may need.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have lasting effects and business owners can continue to rely on the City of Vista and Vista Chamber for assistance,” Mayor Ritter said. “We’ll work to find long-lasting solutions that support our businesses and the people they serve.”
The Steeping Giant and Eppig Brewing expressed gratitude for the grant and the continued support of the city.
“I’m massively appreciative of making the information available and easy. I can’t stress enough how having a process that’s easy is nice,” said Henschel. “It’s getting us out of a debt spiral. It has allowed us a sense of getting more weight off of us.”
Henschel went on to say that business has returned, and he’s been able to bring back part-time and full-time employees. “One of my favorite things about being a business owner is providing a living for other people. Being able to do that now with a number of people is so awesome. I love watching other people provide for themselves and their family.”
Warshaw said the reason why they picked Vista for their business is the support the city gives towards businesses. “By offering grant money two years into the pandemic shows they were still looking for ways to help businesses, which I appreciated.”
For businesses interested in the application process, grant program applicants are categorized into need-based tiers outlined on the Vista Chamber of Commerce website. Before beginning your application, interested applicants are advised to gather the following:
– A DUNS number, available on dnb.com/duns-number
– A current City of Vista Business License
– Copies of any business-related licenses or permits needed to legally conduct business.
– Current W-9 Form
– Profit & Loss Statement for calendar year 2020 and for calendar 2019, if applicable
– Prepared recovery plan, including plan for use of grant funds
– Documentation from landlord stating applicant is current with rent payments, if applicable. Include landlord contact information.
To learn more about the small business grant, please visit vistachamber.org/small-business-covid-19-grant-program. General resources about doing business with Vista can also be found on the city’s economic development website. Resources include upcoming development projects, associations and city contact information.
For more information about the businesses in this article, visit eppigbrewing.com and thesteepinggiant.com.