Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund Established

Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Act was signed into law on May 4, providing a grant program to help tourism-related small businesses reopen.

Mountain BizWorks will administer the $5 million emergency grant fund. The application period opens May 15, with awards announced in mid-June. Sign up on the Mountain BizWorks site to be notified as program guidelines are available, when the grant application window opens, and other important fund announcements.

The $5 million Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund was enabled Monday for local tourism-related small businesses and nonprofit organizations impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis, thanks to legislation introduced by Sen. Chuck Edwards with support of the Buncombe County delegation, and signed into law on Monday by N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.

Senate Bill 704 allows the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to establish the fund for emergency grants of up to $50,000, available for businesses that provide a direct visitor experience, including restaurants, retail establishments, studios and galleries, attractions, tours and activities, entertainment and event venues, and breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries, among others.

Such entities can use the grants to restart their business as restrictions are lifted and recovery begins, to help with rent, payroll, inventory, and other expenses associated with reopening. Priority will be given to small businesses that are local and independently owned. Lodging properties are not eligible.

Mountain BizWorks will Administer Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund

The Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund will be administered by Mountain BizWorks, a local U.S. Treasury-certified nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) with a 30-year history of providing tailored small business financial services in Asheville and the region, and experience managing several emergency response funds.

The online application portal opens May 15 and runs through May 31. Awards will be announced in mid-June. Interested applicants should sign up at mountainbizworks.org to learn more about the program, including opportunities for training and technical assistance in applying for grants.

Grants will go through a standard review process based on grant criteria established in the legislation and scored by Mountain BizWorks. There will be a financial component as well as an impact component to the application process and scoring. Grant applications will be confidentially reviewed by a team of Mountain BizWorks lenders, staff, and business coaches, and there will be an internal investment committee, similar to Mountain BizWorks’ normal funding approval process, that will review and approve all grant awards, per the program goals and guidelines.

Development of the Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Fund

The recovery fund is established with occupancy tax revenue collected for the Tourism Product Development Fund, maintaining the purpose of the TPDF while responding to the unique needs of the coronavirus crisis. The Tourism Product Development Fund comes from 25 percent of the occupancy tax paid by people who visit and stay overnight in commercial lodging facilities in Asheville and Buncombe County.

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