By: Shauna Johnson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At least $100,000 in grant funding will initially be available through the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Foundation for qualifying small business owners trying to recover from the devastating June 23 flood.

“What we need to do is help get some of these small businesses back on their feet as soon as possible,” said Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

“Many small businesses really are the fabric of a community, particularly in a small town.”

The Chamber, he said, is trying to fill a need with the grant program, funded with donations, since so many affected business owners did not have flood insurance and assistance options for flooded businesses from the federal government are largely limited to low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Individuals can qualify for grant assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, businesses cannot.

Helping businesses with flood recovery helps communities, in Roberts’ view.

“Imagine if you’re a small hardware store or you’re a small lumber company, right now, people want to get to you to get the supplies and materials they need,” he said. “The sooner we get them back on their feet, the sooner we get them open, the sooner those communities begin to recover.”

As of Thursday, about $100,000 had been raised for the Chamber’s grant effort and, Roberts said, that amount was growing each day. During a preliminary survey, about 50 applications for or interest in the direct mini-grants for small businesses had been identified.

The West Virginia Bankers Association is working with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce on the effort.

More information on grant donations or applications is available by calling the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce at 304-342-1115 or by clicking here.

During an expected Special Session later this year, state lawmakers could be asked to approve additional grant funding from the state for small businesses in flood recovery.

Though the Chamber has not yet taken an official position on the possibility, “This is a case where just a little bit of money can help many of these businesses,” Roberts said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

“A very small public investment would yield huge dividends in terms of quality of life, in terms of allowing people to be able to stay in their community because the goods and services that they depend on would then be available.”