Starting Monday, Charlotte’s micro businesses can apply for grants to help bring back some of the normalcy disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The City of Charlotte has partnered with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) to deploy the Micro Business Relief Fund, where 100 businesses with five employees or fewer that are located within opportunity corridors could receive up to $10,000 to put toward operational costs like payroll, vendors, utilities and rent. Applications open Monday at noon.
The $1 million total funding is a product of a Community Development Block Grant provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. City council members approved the use of the federal funds during the April 13 business meeting, though questions were raised about how far the money would go once businesses factored in expenses.
Along Charlotte’s opportunity corridors that fall largely on the east and west sides of town, the relief fund intends to offer a life preserver for micro businesses that have found little to no success with the federal Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
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The relief fund was a point of discussion during the city’s Open for Business webinar today. LISC Executive Director Ralphine Caldwell explained that the grants don’t have to be paid back, but business owners must sign agreements to follow up with LISC staff during the grant term.
“Our plan is that we now have a pipeline of businesses that we will be communicating with through webinars, events, and trainings to assist them in some of the things they had problems with when the pandemic started,” Caldwell said.
Beyond location and number of employees, each eligible micro business must meet income criteria. Business owners’ annual household earnings must fall below 80% of the area median income.
LISC recommends businesses begin collecting the following information:
- Proof that the business is located in an opportunity corridor.
- An explanation of how Covid-19 has impacted business and how grant funding will stabilize operations.
- An itemized list detailing how the $10,000 will be used.
- Documentation showing the business owner meets annual household income requirements as determined by HUD. (Ex. one person: $44,250, two people: $50,600, four people: $63,200, etc.)
- Tax returns from the previous two years, monthly earnings statements, and documentation of revenue streams (bank statements, for example).
The city’s economic development team, along with LISC’s staff, will review required documentation and score each application.
“Small business is the lifeblood of our economy and micro businesses are essential to maintain what we have established and cultivated here in Charlotte,” said Mayor Vi Lyles. “As we recover from the financial impacts of Covid-19, we need all sectors of our business community to grow and thrive, and this relief fund is one of the ways to make it happen.”