By SCOTT JACKSON
The city of Quincy is making $2 million in grants available to small businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Thomas Koch, U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, Quincy Chamber of Commerce President Tim Cahill and city planning director Jim Fatseas announced the establishment of the grant program Thursday. Applications were made available online immediately at quincyma.gov and will remain open until May 15.
The funding for the program will come from the federal government. Koch said $1 million would come from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and another $1 million is from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The goal of the program, Koch said, is to help ensure the city’s small businesses would be able to re-open.
“A mom and pop store with a few employees that just lives on their income, they are hurting right now. This program that we’re establishing will provide small grants, up to $10,000 per, to assist them to hopefully keep them moving so they will be able to re-open,” Koch said.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to do everything we can to help our brothers and sisters in need.”
The mayor said the program would provide eligible small businesses with grants of up to $10,000 each. There are four qualification preferences for the program: A business must have fewer than 20 employees, less than $1 million in gross revenue, must be the owner’s primary source of income, and have demonstrated a significant loss of income since March.
Certain businesses are ineligible from the program, including real estate, multi-level marketing, tattoo parlors, and retailers of alcohol and marijuana, among others. Also excluded are franchisees of national or regional chain businesses; independently-owned franchisees will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The city’s planning department will be responsible for vetting the applicants and distributing the grants. Koch said funding would not be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“This is not first-come, first-serve. Applications will be processed and people will be dealt with and handled, so don’t feel like you’re in panic mode and you have to get in line,” the mayor. “We’re going to keep it open until May 15, the deadline, and if we have to extend it, we will.”
Fatseas said the application process would be user friendly and his entire 17-person staff is willing to help businesses through the process.
The city receives roughly $1.8 million annually from the CDBG program, Koch said. The CDBG money set aside for the small business grants comes from additional CDBG funding set aside in the CARES Act, he said.
Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, said the block grant program gives local and state officials the ability to use federal funds where it they feel it can be most impactful.
“The CBDG moneys gives the authority to our governors and our mayors, who we think have a better grasp on the needs within the state,” Lynch said.
“I have high confidence in Charlie Baker and Mayor Koch – that putting money into that CDBG pipeline will get to the people who need it most, because they are here every day, they are on the ground, they get the complaints and the phone calls.”
Cahill noted the Chamber has helped distribute money from the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund to hospitality sector employees who are out of work because of the pandemic. Nearly 400 workers have received assistance totaling just under $500,000 from that program and a similar one administered by Quincy Community Action Programs to date.
“This program is coming at the right place and the right time, because we’ve been helping the employees and now we’re going to be helping the small business people. The small business grant fund is a phenomenal idea,” Cahill said.
“I believe, from what I’ve seen so far, they have structured it perfectly – trying to help the smallest of the small businesses, the folks that are really going to struggle to re-open but are committed to re-opening.”
Cahill said business owners have been concerned about their ability to pay rent and the grant program would help them be able to do so.
“They can rest assured when their rent is paid that their building is still going to be there when they re-open and maybe get some supplies and get started,” he said.