SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Small businesses in Santa Clara County which take steps to reduce the risk of COVID among customers and employees will be eligible for grants of up to $5,000, county officials announced Monday, with funding paid for by fines levied on other businesses that violated public health orders.

Employers can apply for grants to offset the costs of building outdoor service areas, buying personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer, and providing paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or tested, among other items.

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The county is partnering with the Silicon Valley and Hispanic Small Business Development Centers to launch the grant program, which will issue more than $500,000 in its first phase.

The county Board of Supervisors said the program will award grants through a lottery system that accounts for equity and inclusion considerations such as business size and the location of the business in areas of the county least likely to have access to capital or other banking services.

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“There’s no better way to use the money collected from the businesses that violated the public health orders than to reinvest that money in the small businesses most impacted by the pandemic that did their part to protect their workers, customers, and communities,” said Board of Supervisors Vice President Susan Ellenberg in a prepared statement. “I’m especially proud that our County can do this in a way that recognizes and accounts for the inequities in access to capital, banking services, and other resources that cause some businesses and business owners to suffer more than others.”

The county said it will reinvest virtually all fines it has collected from noncompliant businesses back into the program, called the Small Business Grant Program for COVID-19 Protective Measures. To be eligible for grants, small businesses must not have been fined for violating public health orders, must have submitted required Social Distancing Protocols, must have surveyed their employees for vaccination status, and must commit to comply with public health orders for the duration of the pandemic.

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Grant applications are due by September 7, with the disbursement of grants by the end of September. More information about the grants can be found at https://www.svsbdc.org/sc-covid-grant or by calling (408) 256-2217.