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Senator Edwards Announces 'Buncombe County Jobs Recovery Act'

Buncombe County Travel & Tourism and Asheville/Buncombe Hotel Association Poised to Establish Job Recovery Fund providing $5M in Grants for Tourism-Related Businesses.

RALEIGH, N.C. – Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson), along with Buncombe County Commissioner and TDA Board Member, Joe Belcher, and TDA Board Chair, Gary Froeba, announce a collaborative effort to jump-start Buncombe County Tourism and restore critical jobs impacted by COVID-19.

In response to the COVID-19 health crisis, next week, Senator Edwards will file legislation titled “Buncombe County Tourism Jobs Recovery Act.” This legislation is designed to provide financial assistance to tourism-related businesses facing unprecedented challenges impacted by the stay-at-home orders, and in effect, stopped the tourist industry in its tracks.

Buncombe County TDA will establish a Job Recovery Fund providing $5M in emergency grant funding available for Buncombe County tourism-related small businesses and non-profit organizations affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Eligible applicants can receive up to $50,000 directed toward the restart of their business once the recovery begins, and it is safe to operate or resume full operations, in turn providing jobs and allowing workers to return to the workforce.

“This collaborative effort on the part of the Buncombe County tourist industry and Asheville/Buncombe Hoteliers is one of the most generous, selfless acts I have witnessed coming out of this crisis,” Senator Edwards remarked. “For them to dedicate funding to help other businesses, funding that would otherwise go to promote their own- shows their sincerity and commitment to our community. This bill aims to help establish a local government stimulus initiative that makes extraordinary investments to get Buncombe County businesses back up and running and workers returning to their jobs as quickly as possible. It provides much-needed financial support for the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the Buncombe County visitor economy,” Senator Edwards goes on to say.

TDA Chairman Gary Froeba said, These small businesses are directly impacted by tourism, employ thousands of residents, and generate millions of dollars in local sales and property taxes and billions in revenue. Collectively they provide visitors with reasons to visit Asheville and the rest of Buncombe County.”

“The effects of the coronavirus have hit small businesses more painfully; Government-mandated restrictions on business activity and public mobility resulting in plunging revenues taking their toll on jobs and small business viability. I won’t wait until the pandemic subsides, my focus is on our economic recovery now through short-term aid and long-term structural reforms to promote recovery and growth,” said Joe Belcher, County Commissioner.

Under this act, $5 million will be appropriated from unspent funds currently remaining in the 25 percent Tourism Product Development Fund portion of the Buncombe County occupancy tax. Grants would be awarded to Buncombe County “tourism-related” small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic to provide funds for the restart of their business once the recovery begins and it is safe to begin operating or to resume full operations.

Applicants would be eligible for up to $50,000 in grants that can be used for payroll, inventory, and other expenses associated with reopening businesses and hiring employees. Businesses that qualify are those that provide a direct experience for visitors, including restaurants, retail, studios and galleries, attractions, tours and activities, breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, entertainment and event venues, and numerous other categories.

Lodging properties would not be eligible. To be eligible, a business must meet the same requirements as those to be listed on the BCTDA website at ExploreAsheville.com. Preference will be given to small businesses that are local and independently owned.