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Bill Would Set Aside Unspent Occupancy Tax Revenue For Business Recovery In Buncombe County

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Matt Bush
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Blue Ridge Public Radio

When the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes next week, lawmakers will look at a bill that would set aside $5-million in recovery funds for tourism-related businesses in Buncombe County.  

Republican state senator Chuck Edwards announced Friday he would introduce a bill that calls for money unspent from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority's 'Tourism Product Development Fund' to be awarded via grants to tourism-related businesses and non-profits that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Eligible applicants could apply for up to $50-thousand, which must be spent on the restart of their business when it safe to do so. 

"This bill aims to help establish a local government stimulus initiative that makes extraordinary investments to get Buncombe County businesses back up and running and workers returning to their jobs as quickly as possible," Edwards said in a press release Friday.  "It provides much-needed financial support for the small businesses that are the lifeblood of the Buncombe County visitor economy.”

Businesses and non-profits that would qualify are any that provide a 'direct experience for visitors', and meet the requirements to be listed on the Buncombe County TDA's ExploreAsheville.com website.    Senator Edwards' press release lists 'restaurants, retail, studios and galleries, attractions, tours and activities, breweries, wineries, cideries, distilleries, entertainment and event venues, and numerous other categories' as eligible.  Lodging properties are not. 

The General Assembly is due back in Raleigh Tuesday to take up emergency spending and policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.