Article Published by Aurora Beacon-News | View Article
Author: Steve Lord
An Aurora program has granted about $700,000 to city businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Standing Together with Aurora Businesses Local Emergency, or STABLE, fund granted $691,713 to 46 businesses, part of a total $1.4 million program the Aurora City Council approved in July. The program was developed by the city and Invest Aurora, a not-for-profit development arm of the city.
The city actually disbursed funds to 34 of those businesses Tuesday, in grants varying from as low as $1,309 to as high as $25,000. Grants were limited to a high of $15,000 for businesses with less than five employees, and $25,000 for businesses with five to 50 employees. They were designed to cover 30 days of business expenses for smaller businesses. The program has actually announced awards for a total of 80 businesses, but will not give out grants to that many, said Bryan Gay, Invest Aurora director. That’s because some declined and others became ineligible as the processing went on. Gay said it is hard to say how many awards will be made, but estimated the STABLE program would end up disbursing a total of $900,000 by the end of the year.
The program had more than 250 applicants, and officials reviewed about 220 of them. Awards were done by a lottery system.
Gay said 21 of the grants were given to downtown businesses, in an area identified by the federal Housing and Urban Development department as low or moderate income. The other 25 grants were throughout the city.
Some 18 of the grants were given to restaurants, and about 20 were given to businesses that identified as women or minority owned. Gay said to this point, the grants have enabled businesses to hold on to a total of 38 employees, and have hired a total of three new employees.
The STABLE program was funded by $1.4 million of federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and it turns out that some businesses were unable to meet the guidelines and provide the information the federal government requires.
When asked if the STABLE program would solicit a second round of grants for the about $500,000 not disbursed, Gay said it would be his suggestion to use a different program.
“This may not be the best fund to do that,” he said. “It could be a way to help these businesses is through a different fund.”
Alex Alexandrou, the city’s chief management officer, said back in the early part of the pandemic, when the first shutdown took place, city officials were “really scrambling to identify any city funds that we could utilize to help businesses.”
“There was no playbook for this kind of program,” he said. “Some folks have business models that were not made up to meet the stringent (federal) guidelines. We are still pushing so hopefully we can give out as much as we can as quickly as we can, under the circumstances.”
Some aldermen said that some of the businesses listed as receiving funds have not been following the current Tier 3 guidelines that forbid restaurants from having inside customers. But Mayor Richard Irvin said those cannot be tied to the guidelines of the STABLE program because it is federal money, not state money.
“State requirements don’t fit these funds,” Irvin said.