Council re-instates Small Business Grant program using ARPA funds

The mayor's gavel sits at the dais at Craig City Hall.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press
The Bear Coal Soda Fountain was a beneficiary of the latent Craig Small Business Grant.
Cuyler Meade / Craig Press

In a passage of one of the first resolutions of 2022, the Craig city council decided Tuesday to revive the city’s small business grant program with the use of some of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds.

Last November, the small business grant program was discontinued, in part because of some council members’ concerns about the program’s legality. Additional concerns were raised that the $85,000 that was originally budgeted for the program could be better used in other ways.

But council voted unanimously in a tight quorum — only mayor Ryan Hess and councilmembers Sean Hovorka, Chris Nichols and Jesse Jackson were present, and all voted to pass the resolution — to re-instate the program.

However, with the inclusion of ARPA funds from the federal government, city staff members who were supporters of the program hoped that these supplemental funds could financially support it. The city applied for a Department of Local Affairs grant, but when the city did not receive that grant, it was decided that ARPA could be used to provide the same relief for small businesses.

In addition to the $85,000 going toward continuing the small business grants, council approved that $262,791 of ARPA funds will go toward COVID-19 relief grants for businesses in Craig.

“There were a lot of businesses that were impacted (by COVID-19) last year, and it could also help with rent, storefront improvements and all that good stuff,” Scott said. “Since the small business grant program was voted to not continue by the council, we’re searching for alternate options to bring that back.”

According to the resolution, these grants “allow for loans or grants to mitigate financial hardship such as declines in revenues or impacts of periods of business closure, for example by supporting payroll and benefits costs, costs to retain employees, mortgage, rent, or utilities costs, and other operating costs; and assistance to disproportionately impacted small businesses to include the rehabilitation of commercial properties, storefront improvements & façade improvements as well as technical assistance, business incubators & grants for start-up or expansion costs for small businesses.”

ARPA was passed by Congress in March of 2021 and allowed for the distribution of funds across the nation for relief of hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it was a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package designed to facilitate the United States’s recovery. Craig will receive $2.267 million in ARPA money — $1.133 in January and the other half will be given this summer.

The small business grants included under the resolution would work the same as they did before the program was discontinued, meaning that businesses would apply for the grants and bring 50% of the cost as a match. In the past, small business grants were used for the beautification of recipients’ businesses, which included new signs, awnings or facades. In the three years that the program existed before it ended in November, 29 local businesses were the recipients of more than $250,000.

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