Struggling small businesses in Johnson County to receive $10,000 to help get through pandemic

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — Johnson County is giving small businesses $10,000 to help struggling owners get through the pandemic. Time is winding down for applications and there is still money to be had.

While $10,000 is nothing compared to what small businesses have lost during this pandemic, it means everything to folks barely scraping by.

Roxanne Clifton, owner of Red Balloon Bar in Overland Park says she is very proud of her employees for sticking with her and sticking around during the pandemic.

“I see how hard they work every day. It’s emotional we’ve been here a long time,” she said.

Clifton bought the Overland Park while in college. The former owner sold it to her on a promissory note 30 years ago.

“We have just always been here through a recession, some robberies, through major appliance breakages and COVID has been the hardest thing ever,” Clifton said.

Clifton has kept her doors open by robbing Peter to pay Paul, as she puts it. She has paid her employees first and bills as she can. Clifton says the $10,000 dollar grant from Johnson County is coming at a critical time.

“Without that money we wouldn’t make it we just wouldn’t make it,” she said.

Jeff Shackelford with the Enterprise Center of Johnson County is administering the grant money. $13.5 million in CARES Act money, dolled out to small businesses in $10,000 increments.

“For a lot of us here reviewing the applications, it can be a bit depressing when we’re seeing the revenue impact these businesses have suffered,” Shackelford said. “This has been a crisis in a small business community that I’m not sure we’ve ever seen.”

To qualify, the business must be in Johnson County, have fewer than 50 full time employees, a revenue loss in 2020 compared to 2019 or can show COVID related expenses up to $10,000.

According to Tim Bleish, Owner of Bag and Baggage luggage and gift store, the grant money is huge.

“So far down we’re down 75% from the same time last year, so not only for our business for landlords and for most importantly my employees. $10,000 goes a long way,” Bleish said.

Bleish worked at Bag and Baggage while a student at the University of Kansas and bought the business after graduation. Normally, his main money maker is luggage, but that’s not what is keeping him afloat right now.

“We sell every kind of mask you can imagine,” Bleish said. “We’re not selling luggage so we are selling masks or selling anything that has to do with the pandemic.”

Bleish is like other small business owners who have been forced to be flexible, creative and resourceful to stay in business. The Johnson County grant program closes Dec. 11 and there is still money left. Click here to apply.

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