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Massive response to small business grant program

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The city of Claremont’s small business grant program received so many inquiries on the first day of eligibility that officials stopped accepting requests an hour and forty minutes after the application process began.

Applications for both the small business and the rental assistance programs began at noon Monday and within the first ten minutes the city received over thirty requests from small businesses. City officials shut down the process once they hit 99 requests for the 20 grants, which will be awarded to qualifying businsees on a first come, first served basis. The remaining businesses will be put on a wait list so that if any of the first 20 don’t request the full $20,000, or if a business does not qualify, the city will go to the next business in line.

Assistant City Manager Chris Paulson will be sending out the official application to just the first 20 businesses. The owners will then have to collect the documentation and submit the formal applications within a week. Grants will be awarded after that.

The small business grant program is intended to help businesses that are unable to pay employees or their commercial rent. Qualified applicants will receive grants in the form of a check from the city of Claremont. If the business is requesting assistance with a commercial lease, the payment will be made directly to the landlord or property manager. Documentation on how the funds will be spent must be provided.

The budget for the emergency small business grant program will come from two community development block grants, $176,368 from fiscal year 2019-20 and $106,146 from fiscal year 2020-21, for a total of $282,514. However that is not enough to give all 20 applicants the full $20,000 benefit.

“If each business qualified for the full $20,000 we would exhaust it within the first 14. (They have to submit documentation for that amount). We anticipate a variety of amounts and not all applicants will qualify, that’s why the [limit of] 20 was used. We will move through the wait list if we have remaining money or if any of the first 20 do not qualify or choose not to submit,” Claremont’s Public Information Officer Bevin Handel told the COURIER.

Ms. Handel said the city anticipated there would be a lot of interest but were surprised by the sheer volume and the speed at which the requests were made.

“It shows how much need there is,” she said. “A lot [of local businesses] did not quality for federal assistance and those businesses need help.”

The rental assistance program received 91 requests as of 6 p.m. Monday and remains open until they hit 100 applications. The city will maintain a wait list for the rental program as well.

Funding for the programs comes from a series of community development block grants the city receives every year from HUD and grants that cities get from the county under the CARES act.

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