Small businesses – described as the lifeblood of city neighborhoods – can receive more help as the city expands funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We need to have healthy neighborhoods, and our healthy neighborhoods consist of both safe and habitable housing and actively operating successful businesses,” said Gary Kirkmire, commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development. “We really want to make sure we help every business we can survive through this very difficult time and get to the other side of this.”
On Dec. 28, the city announced updates to two programs:
ORDER Grant, E-Commerce Support: The new ORDER Grant (Online Resources Delivering Excellent Results) provides up to $5,000 to businesses seeking to develop or upgrade their capacity for e-commerce, including web-based ordering, payment and delivery management. To qualify, businesses must have been operating within the city prior to Jan. 1, 2020 and be in good standing with all municipal requirements, including zoning codes, taxes and fees, insurance and fair hiring practices. Kirkmire said some small businesses haven’t been able to implement or take advantage of the technology needed to compete in the pandemic, where consumers may want to shop while keeping their distance.
Business Emergency Retention Grant (BERG), Increased Grant Limit: The city is increasing the grant limit for the BERG program from $5,000 to $8,000 per business. The funds can go toward working capital and unpaid bills such as rent, insurance, inventory, payroll and utilities. New grant limits will go into effect Jan. 1. Any business with an application in process can submit an amendment to seek additional funding under the new limit. Businesses that have been awarded grants under a previous limit also can apply for additional funding.
Kirkmire said a business can apply for both grants. Information is at www.cityofrochester.gov/BusinessResources.
The city hasn’t defined a small business in terms of a certain number of employees or generating revenue in a particular range. Applicants tend to be self-identifying inasmuch as Kirkmire said the amount of money available doesn’t necessarily fit the needs of large businesses.
The latest round of funding comes from federal CARES Act dollars. Earlier in the pandemic, the city also contributed to business grants.
To date, more than $1.5 million has been awarded to more than 600 businesses under the program. Kirkmire said women and minority-owned business – and businesses from all four quadrants — have received funds. He said the city continues to meet with business associations and use social and traditional media to publicize the grants.