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$5M allotted to help struggling Maui businesses adapt to COVID-19-related restrictions

Struggling business on Maui are expecting a $5 million boost to help them overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

It’s called the “Adaptability Fund,” and it’s meant to help business owners do just that, by offering businesses the opportunity to invest in technology to expand online marketing and sales. 

Local salsa maker Eric Cruz sees it as a new beginning for his embattled company. 

“It’s kind of felt like we’ve been dragging on and dragging on,” Cruz said. 

Cruz and his wife have been collecting unemployment for months. Together, they own and operate “Salsa Cruz,” and they rely heavily on tourists. Most of their product is sold at ABC Stores and hotels. 

“We started last up last year, but we didn’t get onto any shelves until the beginning of this year,” Cruz added. That’s when the pandemic hit, and within a month of the first statewide shutdown, they pulled their salsa off the shelves. 

“After that month, we were like, we don’t know when the island’s going to open up and we’re taking a hit,” Cruz explained. 

Months later, “Salsa Cruz” still has not made its way back into stores. Cruz hopes the grant money will help turn things around. 

Leslie Wilkins, president of the Maui Economic Development Board, the organization administering the grants, said previous funding helped businesses stay afloat. This time, she hopes the “Adaptability Fund” will help businesses outlast the pandemic. 

“It’s to help retool and restructure their operations to adapt to what looks like a long-term change in economic environment,” Wilkins said. 

Locally owned non-profit and for profit businesses, as well as independent contractors, musicians, and artists qualify.  Recipients will receive between $5,000 and $25,000 to help them go virtual.  If awarded a grant, Cruz said he plans to use the funds to ship product both interisland and to the U.S. continent. 

“As long as we can go direct to consumer, I mean, there’s really no limits to what we can do,” Cruz said.

According to Wilkins, about 50 businesses have submitted applications for funding since the program launched last Friday. 

For more information, and to apply, click here

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