VISTA — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic battering small businesses, the Vista City Council recently approved a grant program to help alleviate financial distress.
The council approved its Small Business COVID-19 Grant Program during its Sept. 14 meeting, providing grants between $1,000 to $25,000 for qualifying small businesses.
The city received $26.1 million from Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which came via the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11.
The City Council approved allocating $3 million from the recovery dollars to fund its small business program. Applications are on a first-come, first-serve basis and must be submitted through the Vista Chamber of Commerce starting Nov. 1, according to Kevin Ham, director of economic development.
“It would remain open until all the grant funds are expended or 18 months, whichever is sooner,” Ham said.
To qualify, applicants must be an independent, for-profit business, have more than 100 employees (preference to businesses with 20 or fewer), have a valid business license and mandated by government action to close or significantly alter their business activity due to the pandemic and provide proof, according to the staff report.
Additionally, the businesses must document their losses and how the funds will be used for recovery, and bonus points are awarded to underserved groups such as women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses, Ham said.
Ham said the program has three tiers, which include businesses that opened before and after March 15, 2020, along with home-based or national and/or regional franchises with local ownership.
Another part of the process is for businesses to be scored on a matrix covering several categories. The matrix, which determines the amount of the grant, is based on the three tiers and the percentage of revenue losses.
Ham said a profit and loss statement is required, along with a viable recovery plan and other documents may be requested. Applicants may also be interviewed, if necessary, by either the chamber, city or a city auditor.
“If the business does not own the land … they will be required to affirmatively declare that they are not in arrears on rent,” Ham added. “If the business is late, the business must use 50% of the grant funds on rent.”
The chamber, he said, will verify the business is in good standing with the landlord. Ham said they don’t want to give a business grant money only to see them evicted.
However, a move may be disclosed through a business’s recovery plan, he added.
Councilwoman Corinna Contreras questioned why nonprofits were not included. Ham said the recommendation is for the council to allocate an amount and staff and develop a grant program specific to non-profits.
He said there are about 75 nonprofits in Vista.