How Santa Clara County is providing more help for small businesses during the pandemic

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As small businesses continue to grapple with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Santa Clara County is giving businesses a break on more fees. 

A proposal co-authored by Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Susan Ellenberg will eliminate the Weights and Measures device registration fees for impacted small businesses for the rest of 2021. 

In Santa Clara County, approximately 2,000 retail businesses, including grocers, use scanner pricing systems and use various weighing and measuring devices. 

Each year, the county administers two ordinances requiring device registrations and inspections in an effort to ensure accuracy in pricing, prevent customers from being overcharged,
and create an even playing field across businesses.

“The county has been engaged through administration and through various Board of Supervisors in trying to mitigate in every way we can the tremendous harm that has been the corollary of the pandemic,” says Ellenberg. 

“The health crisis has lasted much longer than anybody expected, we now have a vaccine to help us physically come out of it, but it is going to be such a hard road for so many of our businesses particularly the small, local, single-site businesses to be able to recover.”

According to a county report, large grocery stores like Safeway have more than 9 scanners plus scales typically pay about $900 per store. For small grocery stores with fewer scanners, scales pay an average of $320 every year. 

About 1,000 small businesses, which are defined as those with two or fewer locations, would qualify to receive a break from the county. 

“And we know that they have been tremendously impacted, not only directly by the pandemic and having to close, and very limited customer base, but they’ve also had to compete with the very large companies that have really thrived frankly during the pandemic,” says Ellenberg. 

“So we saw an opportunity where we could forgo our fees which amount to half a million dollars, keep that money in the business community and let the business owners and their families use that literal cash to begin to rebuild.”

The Santa Clara Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the proposal, which builds on the county’s Small Business Loan program and permits relief for small businesses. 

Back in March, supervisors approved waiving certain fees to businesses in Santa Clara County. 

“But frankly we went ahead and did this before we had confirmation of whether and how the dollars would be reimbursed,” says Ellenberg. 

“On balance, a county government of our size is far better positioned to bear the loss of half a million dollars in this case of another million in the case of the previous referral for health inspections,” Ellenberg added. 

“I think we have asked our county residents, and in fact, we have mandated so much sacrifice for them that I feel it is incumbent upon us to look for any possible ways we can to get money back into the community or keep it there in the first place.”

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