Businesses take cities up on financial help during COVID-19
As local businesses struggle to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, local city governments are reaching out to try to provide some type of financial assistance until it's over.
And the number of businesses asking for help in many local cities has been nothing less than staggering.
Sherwood City Manager Joe Gall said small businesses quickly applied and returned online applications late last month when the city opened up on its Small Business Emergency Relief Program.
"We opened them on March 28 … and within the first hour we had 85 applications," he said. "We closed it on the 30th of March, which was two days later. We ended up with 119."
Gall said the city shut down the process a little earlier than planned because it had an original $100,000 earmarked for the program and they had up to $300,000 in requested grants when it shut down.
A panel of business leaders and Sherwood's economic development manager helped sort through the applications to determine if they met criteria for the $2,125 checks – placing food and drink establishments at the top of the list of recipients, he said.
"We ended up going through all those applications, 94 of the 119 requests were approved and we increased the amount from 100,000 to $200,000," said Gall, who noted that the money came from a general fund contingency with money budgeted for emergencies and not the city's reserve fund.
On Monday, the first of those checks, $119,000 worth, were mailed out.
One of them is expected to reach an "ecstatic" Matt Weissbach, a physical therapist and co-owner of Sherwood's Evolve Physical Therapy.
"This is why we love Sherwood is because we're largely community based … with our networking, our outreach to the YMCA, the senior center teams and clubs and sponsorships. We've got a strong feeling if we support the community, they'll support us," said Weissbach, who owns the business along with physical therapist Matt Whitaker.
Weissbach said they closed the doors of Evolve Physical Therapy on March 17 because it was the right thing to do to prevent the potential of spreading the virus even though physical therapists were considered an essential service.
Just to the east, Sherwood's neighbor Tualatin is following through with steps to help hurting businesses as well with a $250,000 initial grant funding to help businesses affected by COVID-19 through an Economic Stabilization Fund, which uses non-tax increment finance funds from the city's urban renewal program. Businesses eligible for that program could receive up to $10,000.
"We had a total of 149 applications representing all industry sectors in Tualatin. I was expecting roughly 120 applications, so this far passed our expectations," said Jonathan Taylor, Tualatin economic development manager. "The process now begins of ensuring that each application criteria were meet and ensuring business eligibility. Then it will go to a committee that will rank each application based on established criteria."
In Beaverton, the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the City of Beaverton to develop a $250,000 Business Assistance Fund, which saw applications for more than 120 businesses.
"That fund was exhausted in less than 72 hours two weeks ago," said Lorraine Clarno, president and CEO of the Beaverton Chamber of Commerce. "We are advocating city council to get it replenished! All those dollars were out on the streets two weeks ago."
Meanwhile, the City of Tigard has launched its Tigard CARES (Commercial Assistance & Relief for Economic Stability), which will provide up to $1 million in total financial assistance to businesses, helping out with rent, insurance, employee retention and other concerns. More than 300 firms in Tigard have applied for that assistance, funding that was approved by the Tigard City Council on Tuesday evening.
"I'm pleased that we can provide many of our important local businesses with a range of options to meet their diverse needs," Tigard Mayor Jason Snider stated in a news release. "By leveraging our limited funds, we can help more businesses immediately and also facilitate new relationships with CDFIs that are key to the long-term financial stability of our businesses and local economy."
The program leverages city funds against a combination?of?federal, foundation?and private funds to triple the $300,000 Tigard City Council has anticipated committing to this effort.?
There is no set deadline for those applications.
Also on Monday, the Tigard council approved $100,000 in housing assistance for members of the homeless community, expected to be distributed through several organizations to help out during these tough times.
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