Stone Mountain, GA — The city of Stone Mountain launched a pandemic relief grant program earlier this month that will steer $250,000 to small businesses and non-profits hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The city is reinvesting in those that took a chance on investing in this city by starting or bring their businesses to our town in the first place,” City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton told The Tucker Observer.
Commercial business owners flooded the application process, with 50 of them requesting $7,500 grants for a total of $375,000 in requested aid. Funding capacity for that group is capped at $150,000.
The grant application period for commercial businesses closed Feb. 22, but the city is extending the deadline for non-profits and “micro-businesses” (e.g. gig workers, independent contractors, contract firm workers, on-call workers and temporary workers).
Seven non-profits requested $5,000 grants for a total of $35,000, and nine micro-businesses requested $3,000 grants for a total of $27,000. Funding capacity is capped at $62,500 for non-profits and $37,500 for micro-businesses. The application process will reopen for those two groups from March 1 to 7.
Commercial businesses, non-profits and micro-businesses have requested a total of $437,000 in aid so far. And it’s much-needed as the city continues to hear from struggling business owners.
“They call city hall, they voice their concerns during meetings of council, they contact the council representatives individually,” Miller-Thornton said. “They are hurting and just want to save the establishments that they have worked so hard to maintain during this time.”
Stone Mountain’s commercial tax base is “significantly small,” according to Miller-Thornton.
“So when businesses suffer and close, the tax burden has the potential to become that much heavier on the city’s residents,” she said. “The city wanted to do what it could to relieve some of the financial stress of the pandemic for its residents and business owners alike.”
The city partnered with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to administer the grant. They separated it into three pots of money to give different kinds of business an equal chance to receive financial help.
“This method lessened the pool of applicants per ‘pot’ and increases the chance to help every business type – all of which are so vitally important to our commercial community,” Miller-Thornton said.
A lottery system will be used to decide on the excess of qualifying applications. The city expects to distribute the grants in late March.
Grantees must use any awarded funds only for reimbursement of costs of business interruption caused by required closures due to the pandemic, reimbursement of costs of business interruption caused by voluntary full or partial closure to promote social distancing measures, or decreased customer demand as a result of the pandemic. The funds cannot be used for payroll costs that have been or will be reimbursed under any federal program, such as the Paycheck Protection Program.
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