Owners of Longmont businesses both young and old say they got a fiscal lifeline tossed to them on Dec. 31 when the city disbursed more than $1.3 million to 97 small businesses and nonprofits throttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, 182 businesses and nonprofits submitted applications totaling $2.66 million in funding requests, according to a city news release. To vie for funding from the Boost Longmont Business Grant program, businesses had to meet a long list of criteria and successfully pass a review from the city’s COVID-19 Business Response Team.
“With only $1.3 million in possible grant funds available, the review panel had the difficult task of selecting those businesses most in need and who demonstrated strong future viability,” the city stated in the release.
Because COVID-19 expenses are ongoing, city officials will keep identifying additional funding options for eligible applicants, the release states.
Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Scott Cook said while some businesses have adapted to COVID-19 restrictions, others have not and will likely fail in the near future.
The city grants, Cook said, are giving many struggling businesses a fighting chance to stay viable.
“We are very fortunate that we have a forward-looking local government that is helping local businesses in the best way possible,” Cook said.
Longmont businesses feeling the pain of the pandemic are not alone.
The Colorado Chamber of Commerce in its COVID-19 Business Impact Survey released on Dec. 16 reported that 65% of small businesses with one to 49 employees said they were negatively impacted by the pandemic, with more than half — 53% — of businesses expecting the economic fallout of the virus to continue beyond 2021.
Grant recipient Natalie Sonora opened Eleven Eleven Bridal on Main Street in 2019 and faced down the usual problems that hamper new businesses. Then, the virus hit and forced Sonora to shut her doors in March. She opened up again in May just to time for a bleak wedding season.
“Most of the wedding industry was heavily impacted this past season,” Sonora said. “It was all shut down. No weddings were happening, everybody was eloping.”She said the grant from Longmont will allow her to bring in more inventory and employees to keep the business viable.
“It will definitely help us stay open,” Sonora said. “It will keep us running.”
Another Main Street business — 75-year-old Brown’s Shoe Fit — lost a few employees due to the COVID-19 slowdown but was able to retain most of its staff entering 2021, manager Jason Wetzel said.
The grant from Longmont will help the store meet its expenses and keep the doors open, Wetzel said.
“We are blessed to have the support of the city and the community to allow us to keep our business rolling,” he said.
Main Street’s Barbed WIre Books shuttered for two months after COVID-19 hit but the business was able to retain its staff since then, owner Kathe Heinecken said.
Heinecken said she will use the grant to pay back rent.“The grant was very helpful because many unforeseen expenses came up during that time that would have cost (the business) much more had they been postponed,” Heinecken said.
Applicants for the grants had to meet nine criteria.
The had to have:
- The equivalent of 25 or fewer full-time employees
- A physical address within city limits
- A brick-and-mortar premises or mobile unit (not a home-based business or home-based nonprofit.
- An active city sales and use tax license.
- Experienced a hardship from closure, dramatic reduction in operations or loss of revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The also were required to be:
- In good standing with city permits, licenses, fees and taxes.
- Registered and in good standing with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.
- In operation since at least Jan. 1, 2020.
- Able to demonstrate how grant funding would support continued operation.
Grant applications were scored on a number of criteria including that the business was locally owned and the owner’s home address was in Longmont. Factors such as minority, woman, veteran or disabled person ownership were considered, as were the impact of the pandemic and if the applicant was aiding in COVID-19 recovery.
Boost Longmont grants can be used for commercial leases; mortgages; utility payments; payroll and employee benefits; debt payments; inventory; to replace revenue lost as a result of partial or full business closure; equipment and supplies needed to comply with COVID-19 safety measures, according to release.
A full list of businesses and nonprofits that received Boost Longmont grants can be viewed here.
Learn more about relief programs
The Boulder Small Business Development Center will hold a webinar on the new Federal Economic Aid Act and Colorado's Small Business Relief Program, which is being administered by counties, from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday. Learn more and register here.