For vending machine owner William Jurkovich, a $5,000 small business grant from Fresno County was a lifeline.
“Thank God!” Jurkovich said at a news conference Friday to introduce recipients in the $5 million Helping Underserved Business program.
The county announced two HUB grantees on Friday. The remaining 998 will be identified on Monday. Then, the proverbial check will be in the mail. Because it is a grant, the money doesn’t have to be repaid.
The program was designed to help small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using federal stimulus dollars, the county will grant $5,000 to 1,000 businesses who did not receive federal or city of Fresno grants.
Grant Will Help with More Vending Machines
“A lot of my businesses sent everybody home. So my vending machines are sitting in break rooms with nobody there.” — William Jurkovich, J & J Vending
Jurkovich, who operates J & J Vending with his wife, said because he didn’t have a relationship with a bank, the federal Payment Protection Program was out of reach.
He appreciated that the winners were chosen by a lottery.
“Two days ago, I didn’t know (Fresno County Supervisor) Steve (Brandau). So it wasn’t a matter of who you know,” Jurkovich said.
Jurkovich said he lost 50% of his business because of the pandemic. A $5,000 infusion will help with capital.
“A lot of my businesses sent everybody home. So my vending machines are sitting in break rooms with nobody there. So it’s been tough, but there’s still a demand for other businesses that are thriving for me to provide machines in new locations,” Jurkovich said.
Jurkovich said the money has already been spent on new machines.
Restaurant Took Loss Because of COVID-19
For Harsh Singh, the grant will help his northwest Fresno restaurant, Star Indian Cuisine, at 5348 W. Spruce Ave.
“It was a bit of relief because we had lost anybody who sat inside to eat,” Singh said.
Relying on take-out and delivery orders did not help.
“People were not trying to order because they were too scared of the COVID-19 to order out or anything like that. So it’s kind of devastating for our business,” Singh said.
Singh plans to use the money for business expenses, especially paying back rent.
More Than 1,300 Applied
Brandau wanted to find a way to help small businesses during the pandemic. The county’s CARES Act dollars helped.
“People were not trying to order because they were too scared of the COVID-19 to order out or anything like that. So it’s kind of devastating for our business.” — Harsh Singh, Star Indian Cuisine
“That made our lives a lot easier after that because it could become a grant that did not have to be repaid. I think that’s even better. And it made it made this program a little bit better,” Brandau said.
The grants are spread evenly throughout the five supervisorial districts. Each district will have 200 grantees. Because more than 200 applied in each district — 1,345 in all — a lottery was instituted.
Supervisor Brian Pacheco said that helped ensure fairness.
“We (supervisors) had no part in the selection process, so it was done fair and equitable because here at the county, we want to do things that fair and the right way,” Pacheco said.
Fresno Economic Development Corporation administered the loans. Lee Ann Eager, president and CEO of Fresno EDC, said each company that applied was vetted three times for eligibility.
Nathan Magsig’s District 5 received the most applicants at 344.