By Mike Harris – Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
A county grant program aimed at helping mountain businesses affected by the recent series of heavy snowstorms was unanimously approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on March 28, but some businesses had mixed feelings about the amount of support.
Called the Mountain Small Business Grants Snow Response Program, mountain businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer employees would be eligible for a one-time grant of $3,000. Companies with more than 50, but fewer than 500 employees, may be eligible to receive $15,000.
“The recent snowstorm had devastating impacts on many businesses in the mountains,” 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Rowe said. Her district includes the San Bernardino Mountains. “These grants will help them to recover financially as they work to reopen to serve the community.”
Online applications will be accepted starting April 7. Information on how to qualify, and the required documentation, is available by going to the San Bernardino County Snow Information website at https://snowinfo.sbcounty.gov/msbg/.
The board of supervisors also decided to help mountain property owners rebuild or repair snowstorm damage by offering some county red tape relief.
On March 14, the board unanimously voted to waive up to $5,000 in county plan review and permit fees. The waiver is available for each damaged structure and will be funded by $500,000 of the $10 million Emergency Response Fund created by the supervisors on March 1.
“This waiver is important for the recovery of our mountain communities,” Rowe said. “As our businesses and residents rebuild, we need to ensure that we eliminate as many additional burdens as possible. I’ll keep pushing for additional resources for our mountain residents, who continue to impress me with their courage and resilience.”
Mountain businesses contacted for this story were generally pleased with the specter of grant money and promises to cut red tape.
“We will be applying for it [the grant money],” Mike Johnstone, vice president and manager of Goodwin and Son’s Market, said. “Every little bit helps.”
Johnstone said Supervisor Rowe also has been very helpful with connecting Goodwin’s with key county personnel.
“She talked to us about speeding up the permit process,” Johnstone added. “She helped us connect with building officials, Building and Safety Department officials, and is working with us hand in hand.”
Johnstone has told The Alpine Mountaineer that the Goodwin family’s goal is to reopen a new and better Goodwin’s Market by spring of 2024.
“She’s been calling me constantly,” Johnstone said of Rowe. “She is making sure (mountain) businesses are being taken care of.”
Lake Drive Hardware was one of the Crestline businesses that experienced a partial roof collapse because of the snow. It was closed for eight days.
“The whole right side [of the roof] will need to be removed and replaced,” owner Karl Bauerschmidt explained. “We are finishing the shoring process. Basically, it’s over the main aisle where the fasteners are located.”
Bauerschmidt said he’s heard of the Mountain Small Business Grants Snow Response Program.
“I am aware of the program and that’s great; it’s great that the county is doing stuff for our area,” he said. “But until I see the application and conditions, I can’t say more than that I’m aware of it.”
He said that mountain businesses need to know what other assistance is out there. “We need to know what else is available.”
But some questioned how far those grant funds would help.
“It’s hard to say,” Nathan Hazard, owner of Littlebear Bottleshop in Skyforest, said. “We were closed for over four weeks. One size doesn’t fit all. There needs to be more robust action.”
Michelle Hake, the Crestline Chamber of Commerce president, said local businesses are grateful for any help because something is better than nothing.
“Businesses are grateful that Supervisor Dawn Rowe has been on the ground to help us recover,” she said. “But we need help so our businesses can get back on their feet. We need that support right now.”
Many local businesses had zero income during the storms, she said.
“I put a call out [for the community] to support our businesses,” she emphasized. “We need you to help our businesses get back on their feet.”
Who can qualify for recovery grants
Eligibility for grants under the Mountain Small Business Grants Snow Response Program will be provided to businesses that meet the following requirements:
- Were in operation prior to and on February 27, 2023.
- Meet the full-time employee requirements.
- Have a brick-and-mortar location in the San Bernardino Mountains that was used by employees and/or customers.
- Was not a home-based business.
- Was located in an unincorporated area within San Bernardino County where the extreme weather event and snowfall impacted operations, resulting in closure of the business and closure of the roads to access the business.
- Was operating in full compliance with all local, state and federal regulations and laws.