Council OKs grants for small businesses hit by COVID

·2 min read

Oct. 21—WINDSOR — Town Council members voted unanimously on Monday to allocate $500,000 for a grant program that would help small businesses and nonprofit organizations mitigate the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Thankfully, here in Windsor we didn't see a lot of closures," economic development consultant Patrick McMahon said. But that doesn't mean there weren't a lot of businesses affected by COVID-19.

McMahon and Economic Development Director Jim Burke helped develop a set of proposed parameters and eligibility requirements for the grants, which they presented to the council at Monday's meeting. The program would infuse $500,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act into both local businesses and nonprofits with 25 or fewer full-time employees.

Signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, the American Rescue Plan Act will provide Windsor with approximately $8.5 million in federal funds over the next two years. The Treasury Department outlined how the funds could be used, including assistance to small businesses.

Eligible businesses and nonprofits would be required to show proof that they experienced a negative economic impact caused by COVID-19. They would also be required to participate in a free business consultation with a technical assistance provider within two months after receiving the grant.

"Some of those negative impacts could be such things as they had to buy more Person Protective Equipment, they had to create those barriers in their spaces so their clientele would be safe, if they had to create some kind of outside dining location," McMahon said. "That would be an extra expense that they wouldn't normally have had."

McMahon said $200,000 of the total grant amount would be set aside for businesses and nonprofits that haven't received any state or federal funds. All eligible parties can list their financial loss on their application, up to $10,000.

Town Manager Pete Souza said if the grant program receives an overwhelming number of applicants the town could consider increasing the allocation of funds.

Council members Lisa Bress and James Dobler both raised concerns about business owners feeling overwhelmed and getting discouraged by the program's long list of requirements. But Burke reassured them that economic development officials would hold workshops to assist owners with the application process.

Melissa Madigan, whose downtown coffee shop The Bean 226 employs nine people, said she would look into applying for a grant. Madigan said she would consider using the money to buy outdoor heaters to help expand outdoor dining.

Austin Mirmina is the Journal Inquirer's business reporter and also covers the town of Windsor.

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