Tulare to help small businesses reopen

City council sets aside $200,000 to give $5,000 grants to businesses with fewer than five employees

TULARE – Tulare small businesses attempting to reopen or just stay open following the most restrictive stages of the coronavirus shut down will be able to get some help from their city government.

At its June 2 meeting, the Tulare City Council voted to set aside $200,000 to grant to small businesses affected by the pandemic. Community and economic development director Traci Myers said the money can only be given to businesses with five or fewer employees including the owner and the owner must be considered to have a low to moderate income level. Businesses can use the money to market the reopening of their business, pay bills or employees; purchase personal protective equipment such as face masks, plexiglass shields for employees; or implement social distancing signage, curbside pickup and touchless payment methods. Another $40,000 was set aside to help administer the assistance grants.

“Now that county has moved to 2.5 or 3.0 and businesses will begin to open up,” Mayor Jose Sigala said. “We know they have been closed for a while and this could help them get back open.”

The funding is part of a Community Development Block Grant authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act singed by President Trump on March 27. The city also set aside $50,000 for the Tulare Emergency Aid to distribute food boxes to about 500 people per week. The food pantry receives funding under the Emergency Food and Shelter Program through United Way but those funds were already exhausted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, the food needs of local families have increased every month. Tulare Emergency Aid assisted 881 families in February, 1,153 families in March and 1,285 families in April before running out of food commodities.

Another $50,000 was give to Altura Centers for Health to help the federally qualified health center purchase PPE for its staff over the next three months. During that time, Altura expects 25,000 patient visits or about 2,000 visits per week. In 2019, Altura served 19,376 patients in Tulare, 96% of those are considered low income. Altura operates seven clinical sites in Tulare providing a range of services including medical, dental, behavioral health, chiropractic care, health education, free door-to-door transportation and outreach to the community. They utilize one of their mobile clinics as a drive-by and walk-in COVID-19 test site.

The remaining $79,611 will be used for homeless assistance. Vice Mayor Dennis Mederos suggested that all of the funding go to the Lighthouse Rescue Mission, which had already submitted a proposal for $150,000 to purchase three modular buildings that could be used to house six of Tulare’s homeless while maintaining social distancing. The consensus of the council was for staff to issue a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), where organizations submit proposals for the council to review and then award the funding.

Councilmember Carlton Jones suggested using some of that funding to give to the Tulare Downtown Association. Councilmember Terri Sayre said the association could apply for either the small business assistance or for the NOFA, but Myers cautioned that the structure of their organization would need to be evaluated to determine if it qualifies for either funding.

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