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The first round of RRStrong quick action grants have been awarded, Main Street Development Director Christina Caudle told city council Tuesday night.

The nine recipients of the first round are: A Better Chance A Better Community, also known as ABC2; Britt’s Flower Shop; Fairwood Lanes; Halifax County Arts Council; O’Aetos; Rizen Hair Gallery; Roanoke Valley Dance and Cheer; Shenanigans; and The V.

“Given the continued slowed progression of Governor (Roy) Cooper’s three-phased Reopen NC Plan, our locally-owned small businesses continue to face extreme financial hardships,” Caudle said in her report. “In early July, RRStrong’s three-partner organization elected to release our funds in the form of quick action grants up to $1,000. Our goal was to quickly help our struggling businesses with their debts.”

RRStrong is a partnership between Main Street, The Rewritten Story Foundation and the Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce. Funds were raised through a virtual art auction and a virtual 5K run.

More virtual events are planned and RRStrong is currently selling T-shirts with the theme, Caudle said.

Of those businesses which have been awarded grants, 89 percent are located within the Roanoke Rapids city limits and 56 percent are within the historic district.

Caudle said 78 percent of the award-winners are owned by women and 44 percent are owned by minorities.

Of the businesses awarded the quick action grants, 67 percent employ five people or less or do not receive annual net revenues which exceed $100,000 or a combination of both criteria.

These are businesses which have received no CARES Act funding or unemployment, Caudle said. That percentage is 67 percent.

She said 22 percent are Roanoke Valley Chamber of Commerce members.

The overwhelming majority of the businesses — 78 percent — plan to use the money to catch up on rent and utilities.

In an update on the novel coronavirus pandemic, Caudle said in her report, “Since mid-March, businesses within the historic Roanoke Rapids district and across the city have been dealing with challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. From social distancing to … executive orders mandating business closures, most of our locally owned businesses are experiencing extreme hardships.”

Said Caudle: “With historic Roanoke Rapids being home to the largest collection of locally-owned businesses in Halifax County, Main Street Roanoke Rapids continues to remain committed to assisting our merchants during the COVID-19 crisis.”

Key strategies include instant and constant information with business owners; build up local business morale support; and publicly promote several campaigns including #ShopLocal, #DineLocal, #LoveLocal and the #RRStrong effort.

Caudle said RRStrong is hoping to offer another round of funding in the fall.

City manager’s report

City Manager Joseph Scherer told council Halifax County has received a second round of Coronavirus Relief Fund support to provide financial assistance with pandemic response expenses.

Session Law 2020-4 appropriated $150 million for counties and Session Law 2020-80 increased that funding to $300 million.

Under the guidelines, the county must allocate at least 25 percent of the total funds for use by municipalities within the county.

The total allocation to the county is approximately $2 million with approximately $500,000 to be allocated to municipalities on a per capita basis. Roanoke Rapids is allocated approximately $342,000 for eligible expenses.

Eligible expenses include medical expenses, public health expenses, payroll expenses, and expenses of action to facilitate compliance with COVID-19 related public health measures.

The funds are subject to recoupment if spent on ineligible expenses.

Scherer said it was doubtful the city would be able to find uses for the entire $342,000.

He did say the city is eligible to submit other expenses to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. To date that total is approximately $7,000.

“The North Carolina League of Municipalities continues to lobby federal representatives for revenue assistance for cities and towns,” Scherer said. “I have contacted Senator (Thom) Tillis’ office as well to ask for his support for this same assistance if there is another round of federal stimulus funding allocated.”