Antioch Council approves $435,000 small business relief package

$15,000 for outdoor dining in downtown Rivertown; $15,000 for Chamber of Commerce to administer

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Tuesday, August 25, 2020, the Antioch City Council approved allocating $300,000 in CARES Act funds allocation of $300,000 in CARES Act funding and reprogramming of $120,000 in the Economic Development Department budget towards COVID-19 small business relief including $15,000 for the Antioch Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of administering the small business grant program.

Economic Development Director Kwame Reed provided the staff presentation.

The Business License Tax Relief will be allocated as a reduction or as a rebate (after the full cost of the renewal has been paid) of $100 on the renewal of existing Antioch businesses.

To be eligible for the relief the business must meet the qualifications below:

  • Have a current/active business license as of March 17, 2020
  • Have paid or will have paid for a renewal prior to March 16, 2021
  • Have no more than 50 employees
  • Do not have a national-brand affiliation

This is a one-time relief and only eligible to one owner per business.

Small Business Grants will be funded by the City’s CARES Act allocation. The CARES Act states that payments from the Fund may be used to cover costs associated with the provisions of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures. Businesses will be able to apply for $5,000 grants. This amount will allow 60 grants to be provided to support eligible Antioch small businesses.

To be eligible, business must:

  • Have a physical location in the Antioch city limits
  • Hold a current Antioch business license for one (1) year prior to January 1, 2020
  • No more than 25 employees
  • Demonstrate they were unable to operate due to the Shelter Orders or sales were down more than 25% from the previous quarter or the same quarter last year Priority will be given to retail, personal service businesses, restaurants, and businesses that have not received federal assistance (PPP, EIDL, etc.).

No public comments were received.

Mayor Sean Wright recused himself, since he’s both a small business owner and the COO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts then acted in his place in overseeing discussion of the item.

Councilman Lamar Thorpe said, “I’m excited about this, and particular that the Chamber plays a role. My only question is oversight. Where does that rest? I appreciate the Chamber. But they do have some ideologues, out there. So, I want to make sure the oversight is the city and not those who have a political agenda.”

“The economic program manager and I will have oversight of the funding,” Reed said. “The funding will come from the City not the Chamber.”

“I am happy to hear this will be for all businesses that fit the criteria not just Chamber members,” Wilson said. She then asked if members of the Economic Development Commission will be involved.

The EDC was the commission to develop the program and made a presentation on what they labeled the “COVID-19 Recovery, Retention, and Thriving Plan” to the City Council on August 11, 2020.

Reed responded that he will check with the EDC Chairman to decide. “But we don’t want to slow down the process.”

Wilson then asked about the timeline.

“Ultimately it will be two weeks once the information has been established and created,” Reed said. “We are pushing for the applications to be due early October.”

Councilwoman Lori Ogorchock thanked, “Kwame and the commission for doing this.”

She asked about those businesses, such as hair salons and barber shops, that aren’t open, “can they still apply and hold on to those funds?”

“Yes,” Reed replied.

Motts said she was concerned that all businesses receive the information. “Did you say a one-week application period?”

“Yes,” Reed responded.

“I’m going to request council will consider an amendment…and that is for an establishment for outdoor dining for downtown,” Motts then asked. “It’s $15,000 from the CARES Act in emergency funds that I’m asking for…for barricades. We have a private investor investing millions of dollars in downtown…we have some significant wins. It would be great if the city could support their efforts.”

Thorpe then asked about outdoor dining in downtown. “It seems to me they’ll have to block off some parking. I don’t think that will cost $15,000 to the city.”

“I’ve checked with the city manager and it does require the purchase of barricades,” Motts said. “It might require the closing of one of the streets. But, for the streets that are open, we have to make sure there are barricades.

Ogorchock then asked, “that’s going to be coming up on the agenda (under Item 11), can we be discussing this, now Attorney Smith?”

“I was thinking whether this fit within the scope of the discussion, but I hadn’t come to a conclusion,” City Attorney Thomas Smith said.

“This should come under the Waterfront Committee later in the agenda,” Ogorchock said.

“That’s just about dissolving the Waterfront Committee,” Thorpe stated. “I’m not sure if this fits within the scope of this discussion.”

“To the extent that this creates barriers to accommodate outdoor dining it would be legitimate for the discussion of the CARES Act,” said City Manager Ron Bernal.

“Given that, it can fall within that scope…the talk about the expense of $15,000,” Smith said.

“It’s not my desire to take away but to add,” Motts shared.

“To spend $15,000 to block off some parking spaces…but if it does, it does,” said Thorpe.

“I just wanted to add that as City Manager Bernal mentioned, if a business wants to apply for a grant for putting out barriers for outdoor dining they can,” Reed explained. “At this time, I don’t believe there has been any additional funding allocated for this particular venture.”

“This came out of a committee, out of our Waterfront Committee,” Motts explained. “We’re already half-way through August and this won’t happen until October. There will come a time when outdoor dining won’t be feasible. I think this request is pretty reasonable.”

Thorp then asked Bernal, “assuming a restaurant in downtown came to the city and asked to set aside parking spaces in front of their business, you have a right to do that, right?”

“Yes,” Bernal responded. “The cost Mayor Pro Tem Motts came up with is to put out water filled barrels in case cars might run into them. The cost of putting out barriers of about 120 feet in length is about $10,000. I put in another $5,000 for putting them out, as a conservative estimate.”

“I didn’t think we were going to go purchase barriers,” Thorpe stated.

“I’m personally fine with Joy’s recommendation,” he added.

“I’m fine with the idea of outdoor dining,” Wilson said. “With the recommendations that the Economic Development Commission brought forward that it doesn’t take away from that. I’m concerned if we carve away it will impact their recommendations.”

“If the $15,000 is in addition to not part of this funding from the CARES Act, I’m unclear about that,” said Attorney Smith.

“So, the increase in funding from $300,000 to $315,000 does exist in the CARES Act,” Bernal said. “Director Reed brought back a budget $60,000 more than what he had originally.” So, the council can add the $15,000 to the budget.

“My recommendation would be to increase it to $315,000,” Motts said.

“Is it something that we’re going to have to come back and look at,,,which restaurants are going to get it, or will it be out of the $5,000 grant?” Ogorchock asked.

“I believe this would be a separate thing,” Motts said.

Thorpe then said, “the resolution is for $315,000, we’re not taking it from anywhere else. With that I will make a motion.”

“I’m not done with my question,” Ogorchock said.

“You can’t continue once a motion is made,” Thorpe said.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ogorchock responded.

“Yes, it does matter,” said Thorpe.

“The city would actually go out and purchase the barricades,” Reed said. “It would be coming through the CARES Act that the city could utilize.”

“Thank you,” Ogorchock responded.

“I will read the motion,” Thorpe then said. He then moved approval of allocating $315,000 for the business relief program.

Ogorchock seconded the motion and it passed on a 4-0 vote.

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