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Claremont businesses, renters to receive city grants

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The city of Claremont has awarded several grants, which were originally approved by the city council on May 12, to assist both residential tenants and small businesses affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic; however, there is much work left to be completed.

Both programs had intense response from the community when the application process began at noon on May 18. The small business grant program’s initial limit of 20 applicants was reached in less than an hour. The rental program’s limit of 100 applications was closed by the end of the day. Both programs have waiting lists for applicants who missed the cut.

Assistant City Manager Chris Paulson has been tasked with administering the programs.

As of last Thursday, 123 official applications for the rental assistance program were sent out and 60 had been completed and submitted by tenants. Five of these were determined to be ineligible.

The city approved 55 residential grants totaling $177,552, which will be paid directly to those individuals’ landlords beginning on Thursday, June 25. This leaves only $10,790 remaining in the program for residential tenants.

Awarding the small business grants has proven to be more complicated.

As of June 18, the city reported that 25 businesses had received applications, but only 11 had completed and submitted them. Of those 11, only three have provided the necessary documentation for the application to be evaluated to receive their grants. The other eight will be informed of the missing documentation and given time to resubmit.

Additionally, the 14 businesses that have not yet submitted applications will still have time to complete the application process.

Businesses that had already received Small Business Administration loans, money under the Paycheck Protection Program, or other governmental assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic were not eligible. Additionally, preference was given to those that have received no assistance.

The amount requested by the initial three businesses is $33,499, which leaves the bulk of the money—$249,015—still available for future grants. Staff will continue to work through the applications on the wait list until all funds are expended, Mr. Paulson said in a statement.

Councilmember Ed Reece asked that the grant programs be pulled from the consent calendar because he had a question about the process of approval.

“People are queued up and have gotten through the first hoop, but have not successfully submitted their paperwork. How long are we giving these people to get through their paperwork before they are disqualified, and move to someone else on the list?” Mr. Reece asked. “For some of these businesses and tenants, timing is everything. I would hate to drag out one individual’s application while putting someone else in jeopardy just because that person did not get their information submitted in a timely fashion.”

Mr. Paulson assured the council that there was no individual applicant holding up the process.

“There were a couple of deadlines, but due to the complexity of the application process they have been extended,” Mr. Paulson responded. He added that it was time consuming in part because the grants would be scrutinized by federal Housing and Urban Development officials.

“The second round of review is conducted by the CDGB [community development block grant] consultants, who are experts in the field. And the goal is to make sure that when the HUD auditors come, all of our files are accurate. All documents that we requested are accurate,” Mr. Paulson said.

The $188,342 budget for the rental assistance program includes a community development block grant of $92,759 from the county’s allocation under the CARES act, and $95,583 from fiscal year 2020-21 CDBG funds.

The small business grant program has $176,368 in reallocated 2019-20 CDGB funds, and $106,146 CDBG funds in 2020-21 for a total of $282,514.

In a related item that was also on the consent calendar, the council agreed to extend for one more month a rent moratorium on the three retail storefronts located in the city-owned First Street parking garage.

The city council voted on April 14 to forgive rent on these units for April and May; Tuesday’s action will forgive rent for June. The loss of revenue to the city for the additional month will be $16,812.

The city serves as landlord for the parking structure, which includes ground floor retail businesses Bua Thai Cuisine, 21 Choices and Stix Ride Shop.

Staff recommended the additional month of rental relief because businesses in the Village are still operating at a fraction of their usual activity, even as foot traffic has picked up.

The city also cited the 60 percent seating capacity limit on restaurants as a factor that reduces income for the Thai restaurant, in addition to employee reluctance to return to work.

City Manager Tara Shultz added that the these three retail businesses would not qualify for the small business grant program due to the city’s rent forgiveness.

 

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