ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) – Some massage therapy businesses, gyms, and yoga studios — these are some of the businesses that have reopened this week in the St. George area.

City officials said that many local businesses stepped up and closed their storefronts as soon as they heard of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive, but, acknowledging the few number of cases of coronavirus in Southwest Utah, city leaders said they’re working with public health departments to provide guidance to businesses as they slowly re-open the economy.

In a statement to ABC4 New, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, “Everyone is excited to get back to many of the things we’ve been missing the past six weeks. We are happy to see businesses and services start to come back online while still taking precautions to protect the most vulnerable in our community.”

Don Willie, president and CEO of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce, told ABC4 News social distancing and proper sterilization needs to be observed, and businesses should encourage the use of face masks for their employees and customers.

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“As the economy begins to open up, all that we’re doing is encouraging those businesses to be thoughtful, to be considerate, and to ensure that their customers, clients, and employees safety is their number one priority,” said Willie.

The chamber is working with local public health departments on a campaign to provide clear guidance to businesses — which Willie believes can help to slowly restore consumer confidence — that customers feel safe to participate again.

On Tuesday, the Greater Together Small Business Resilience Fund, a partnership between county and city officials, the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and private industry, announced that 36 Washington County based small businesses have been awarded zero percent interest bridge loans totaling $517,500.

“This loan program was designed and launched to support small businesses in this time of great need. These are the businesses that create and sustain local jobs. These are the businesses who bring vibrancy and diversity to our community,” Willie added. “These businesses are truly the backbone of our local economy.”

To date, the Greater Together Small Business Resilience Fund has received over $900,000 in donations from local governments, businesses and individuals. This fund provides zero-interest, short-term bridge funding for small businesses in Washington County experiencing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We are grateful to be a part of this monumental lift taken by leaders in both the public and private sectors,” Pike added. “This provides the City of St. George an opportunity to support the businesses that have done so much for and in our community.”

Seventy-six applications were submitted and considered in the first round of funding. Those businesses who were declined are invited to reapply in the second round, which closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

“During this time of great uncertainty, I’m proud that Washington County is able to join with several of our cities and private businesses in supporting this fund,” said Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson. “These funds will provide much needed relief to many small businesses who have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.”

The Greater Together Small Business Resilience Fund will allow these businesses to retain or rehire 164 full-time employees and 215 part-time employees in a variety of industries across the county, including:

  • Accommodation and Food Services: 12 businesses awarded
  • Arts, Entertainment and Recreation: 2 Businesses awarded
  • Construction: 2 Businesses awarded
  • Education Services: 2 Businesses awarded
  • Health Care and Social Assistance: 4 Businesses awarded
  • Other Services (except public administration): 2 Businesses awarded
  • Retail Trade: 6 Businesses awarded
  • Technology: 2 Businesses awarded
  • Transportation and Warehousing: 1 Business awarded
  • Wholesale Trade: 3 Businesses awarded

A full list of loan criteria and application instructions can be found at Applications for a second round of the funds will be received and reviewed on a rolling basis through Thursday, April 23 at 11:59 p.m.