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Cobb County vet exemplifies small businesses helped by COVID-19 relief grants

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dana johnson, mitzio schepps, homepage dana johnson, mitzio schepps, homepage

By Guest Columnist DANA JOHNSON, COO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce

In early March, Mitzi Schepps’ mobile veterinarian business, Wellness Waggin’, was thriving. Born out of a desire to help pets stay healthy and help alleviate pain through alternative treatments, Wellness Waggin’ provided acupuncture, laser therapy and other procedures to pets across Cobb County and metro Atlanta through-in home visits. Schepps’ business model relied heavily on the ability to travel and provide personalized care where pets are most comfortable – their homes.

Dana Johnson

Dana Johnson

When the state of Georgia issued a stay-at-home order in March due to COVID-19, Schepps, who has her doctorate in veterinary medicine, was faced with an unimaginable hurdle. She made the difficult decision to stop offering her services completely until the order was lifted. Without the ability to travel to appointments, the financial consequences of the pandemic were felt immediately.

Schepps’ story is not unlike other small business owners who have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Cobb County and across the country. Many area business owners have had to pivot operations or completely shutter their doors due to the public health crisis. According to an article published July 13 in nytimes.com, researchers at Harvard University estimated nearly 110,000 small businesses across the country had decided to shut down permanently between early March and early May.

In Cobb County, we are grateful to be able to help business owners like Schepps during this difficult time through Small Business Relief Grants. Administered through SelectCobb, a Cobb Chamber of Commerce initiative through a partnership with Cobb County government, funding was made available to eligible small businesses for rent, utilities, payroll and personal protective equipment. The grant program is part of the state and national goal of helping small business owners navigate an economic collapse brought on by the pandemic.

dana johnson, Mitzi Schepps

Cobb County veterinarian Mitzi Schepps received a pandemic relief grant through the Cobb Chamber of Commerce that enabled her Wellness Waggin’ mobile clinic to survive the stay-at-home period. Credit: SelectCobb

Each grant was made possible through a portion of the county’s disbursement of The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, an economic stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Each grant is between $20,000 to $40,000, depending on the size of the business.

As a chosen recipient of the grant, Schepps was able to catch up on her business expenses and supplement lost income, while receiving hope for the future during a very dark time. She joins a list of more than 400 Cobb County businesses who have been afforded much-needed relief at a critical time. Fifty-six percent of the grant recipients are minority-owned businesses, while 53% are women-owned, and 8% are veterans. In addition to our first round of funding, we are excited to be in the process of selecting additional recipients of Small Business Relief Grants, and we’ve also recently announced a not-for-profit grant opportunity.

These grants are just one example of our commitment to providing residents in Cobb County with opportunities to grow and thrive while continuing to drive the county’s economic development and impact. Previous successes include saving or securing more than 6,000 jobs and assisting in creating over $375 million in new investment in Cobb County.

In the future, we look forward to assisting more business owners as they tackle the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as continue to bring in jobs to our area and secure new private investments.

While current challenges remain, we’re hopeful for a prosperous future.

Note to readers: In addition to servicing as COO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, Dana Johnson serves as executive director of SelectCobb. More information about grants available in Cobb County is available from SelectCobb.

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