Just before the holidays, Yuba County supervisors took steps to waive license and permit fees for businesses that were severely impacted by forced closures due to COVID-19.
They’re not the only ones trying to help in the Yuba-Sutter region.
“We know a lot of our businesses have been severely impacted by COVID-19, whether because of restrictions or employees who have had to be out and the business has had to close,” said Yuba County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gary Bradford. “Whatever the reason, we wanted to do all we could to support them.”
The waiver covers the time period of March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. Eligible businesses include restaurants with dine-in services, bars and wineries, organized camps, and personal care services.
“We tried to focus on those businesses that we permit in Environmental Health that were directly impacted by the closures, so the ones that were shut down, not necessarily those that just had to make operational changes,” said Clark Pickell, director of Environmental Health.
An annual permit through Environmental Health could cost a business anywhere from $300 per year to several thousand dollars, depending on the businesses and size.
“It’s definitely helpful for those businesses, and it shows the county understands the challenges of what they are going through and wants to partner with them,” Pickell said.
All jurisdictions in the Yuba-Sutter area have taken steps to help local businesses through the ongoing pandemic.
Both Yuba and Sutter counties, as well as some of the cities that received it, have dedicated several million dollars total in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to local businesses and nonprofits.
Sutter County Public Information Officer Chuck Smith said county supervisors have funded $2.8 million in grants that have benefited 159 small businesses and 32 nonprofit agencies that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.
“These grants of up to $20,000 per business or nonprofit agency allow these entities to use that money where it is most needed to keep them afloat,” Smith said. “We have not targeted specific expenses knowing that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution that works for our local businesses. Another $1.2 million has gone to assist lower income parents with additional childcare costs due to school closures, donations to the Yuba Sutter Food Bank, and the Downtown Business Association.”
Smith said businesses don’t need licenses to operate within the unincorporated parts of Sutter County.
Yuba City is working to distribute approximately $800,000 in CARES Act stimulus funds to the community, said Interim City Manager Diana Langley.
“Applications for the funding will be available beginning March 2, 2021, through the Development Services Department,” she said. “Qualifying items include small business grants/loans and utility bill assistance. There are federal restrictions related to the applicability of the funding requests. Also, City Council will ultimately decide how the funds are distributed.”
Just prior to the pandemic, the Yuba City Council reduced development impact fees and water and wastewater connection fees to encourage development within the city. Council members also adopted an Overhead Utility Policy to provide developers with less expensive options to address existing overhead utilities. Langley said feedback from those steps has been positive and made some projects viable.
In complying with the governor’s executive orders since the onset of COVID-19, Yuba City has seen revenue impacts and deferrals worth approximately $1 million, which include the discontinuance of utility service for nonpayment and two sales tax deferral or loan programs that delayed revenue to the city while services were still provided.
Wheatland City Manager Jim Goodwin said officials have taken steps to help out businesses within the city, including deferring sales tax for qualifying small businesses and not suspending water and sewer services to businesses due to nonpayment.
“Wheatland collaborated with Yuba-Sutter EDC to make sure local businesses are aware of support programs, including grants provided by Yuba County,” Goodwin said. “Several local businesses received grants.”
Marysville Councilman Bruce Buttacavoli said the city has relaxed a lot of its rules on businesses who are coming up with different ways to recoup losses due to the pandemic. One step was dropping permit fees that were previously required for a business to move operations out onto the sidewalk. He said the city has worked to be as lenient as it can on issues that businesses are experiencing.
“We just put the new city manager in place, who starts on March 1,” Buttacavoli said. “We will be encouraging him to get someone in place for our economic development department to start moving forward and being more aggressive in finding ways to help out the community.”
Live Oak has also set aside $50,000 in CARES Act funding to refund 50 percent of six months’ worth of city utility bills for qualifying businesses. Mayor Luis Hernandez said he also hopes the city can take steps to lower sewer rates for its businesses and possibly follow Yuba County’s lead by waiving fees for business licenses.