Plymouth Launches New COVID Grant for Businesses
The city of Plymouth has a new program aimed at helping businesses survive the tough economics of the COVID-19 outbreak. This week the Plymouth City Council approved a program offering emergency assistance grants to small businesses worth up to $10,000.
Those grants can be used to pay rent, wages, utilities and other bills. Funding for the program comes from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES Act. Hennepin County also has a CARES funds program that will distribute up to $15,000 per business. Plymouth is partnering with the county to streamline applying for both programs.
Businesses in need of help can go to Plymouth’s website to determine their eligibility and apply. Applying on Plymouth’s website automatically submits an application to Hennepin County as well. Businesses awarded grants under Hennepin County’s program will automatically become ineligible to receive grants from Plymouth.
Danette Parr, Plymouth’s economic development manager, expects more applications than can be funded with the $1 million in CARES funds earmarked for the program. If that happens, a random lottery will be used to determine which businesses get grants.
While the program isn’t cheap, Parr says not offering it would have real consequences.
“The whole point of the program is to promote the viability of our businesses,” said Parr. “We want to have a vital business community. We know right now people are struggling, we know there’s a need to help. This is one of many ways we’re trying to assist businesses, and it’s just to help our community continue to be vital.”
Businesses Depend Upon Loans
Club Pilates owner Brent Ras knows firsthand the value of programs like Plymouth’s. In addition to his Plymouth gym, he also owns one in Maple Grove. The city of Maple Grove already gave his Maple Grove location a $10,000 forgivable loan which Ras says went a long way toward keeping him in business.
“It helped immensely,” Ras said “We were shut down by the governor from March 17 to June 12.” Ras’ business is almost entirely in-person. “So pretty much zero revenue during that time. And we still had rent due at each studio each month.”
Rent wasn’t Ras’ only worry. Reopening has been expensive as well. His front desk workers are working longer hours because they now have sanitization duties on top of their regular jobs. And he’s had a number of staffers quit for reasons ranging from being in a coronavirus-high-risk category to having kids who aren’t in school, which means he has to spend extra money recruiting new staff.
Without Maple Grove’s loan as well as a $35,000 partially-forgivable 0% interest loan from the state, Ras says he’d be in much more dire straights today. “It would be a lot more loans either from myself personally or going to banks and getting more loans to stay afloat.”
Ras says his membership is still down 30% from before the COVID-19 pandemic, and until it bounces back, grants and loan programs are vital. “That is helping us stay alive, stay afloat until it bounces back.”
That, says Plymouth’s Danette Parr, is what her city is going for as well. “We’re in this together. If our business community doesn’t do well and doesn’t survive, then we lose jobs and that hurts our families.”
The deadline to apply for Plymouth’s grant program is 12 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12.
Brandon Bankston, Reporting