The Colusa City Council authorized the application last week of a Community Development Block Grant that could help businesses greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Colusa City Manager, Jesse Cain, at an Aug. 27 special meeting, said the city has designed a program that could help businesses with less than five employees receive up to $20,000. The money would come from the CDBG Economic Development Micro-Enterprise program ($250,000) and the city’s Program Income fund ($166,000), of which part will be awarded as a small grant to small businesses. Some of the funds will be used, as usual, for technical assistance for businesses, officials said.
“This is not part of the COVID funding,” Cain said. “This is the funding we can apply for every year to help businesses.”
The City Council previously authorized, at their Aug. 19 meeting, the use of its $71,894 CDBG Coronavirus Round 1 allocation for items such as sanitizer dispensers, mobile hand-washing stations, and plexi-glass, which will be placed around the city and at local businesses.
The city submitted this second grant request from the CDBG program for $416,000. Cain anticipates that the average small grant award to businesses will average between $5,000 and $15,000.
“We expect to be dispersing the funds this fall – likely October,” Cain said.
City officials said the small grant program was developed with data gathered during the creation of the Colusa Economic Development Strategy report, in which small businesses, particularly those in the personal care industry, reported needing an infusion of cash to help them grow or survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city has determined that small grants awarded directly to businesses could be used for a variety of purposes, including inventory purchases, increasing working capital, acquiring equipment, boosting marketing or retaining efforts to combat the economic downturn. Grants can also be used to refinance debt or leverage other funding, officials said.
Cain said there is no cash match to the grant, which will be administered by an ad hoc committee that includes Mayor Josh Hill and Councilman Tom Reische.
The second program under which CDBG funds can be used is providing technical assistance to businesses, which could include providing support through individualized business coaching and workshops that would feature multiple guests and materials on accounting, marketing, retail strategies, taxes, site selection, etc.
Workshops will be offered “virtually” as recorded webinars, Cain said.
The CDBG grant allows $29,120 (7 percent) to be spent on city administrative costs, leaving $386,880 in the program fund for the small grants and technical assistance.
Similar to the administration of Colusa County’s small grant fund, the City of Colusa will require an application and review process.
“Just like the county’s, it will be first come, first served, based on eligibility,” said the city’s economic development consultant, Kristy Levings.
Levings said the grant program fits perfectly with what businesses told the city they needed in order to survive the economic impacts of the pandemic.
“We look forward to providing this to businesses,” Levings said. ♣