Exeter set to apply for new business aid grant

Exeter City Council agrees to apply for $300,000 in small business grants, and to have Self-Help Enterprises administer the grant application

EXETER – Exeter businesses could benefit from a new round of stimulus grants this spring.

The Exeter City Council voted in favor of applying for a community development block grant (CDBG) specifically dedicated to help businesses weather the ongoing pandemic. According to Exeter finance director, Chris Tavarez, the city needs to apply for the $298,107 available. He said it would be a welcome benefit to local establishments.

“We believe that business assistance to businesses within the city of Exeter would be a potential vital resource for businesses that are struggling during this time,” Tavarez said.

The deadline to apply for the CDBG was recently extended to May 7. Exeter city manager Adam Ennis said they have not chosen to advertise the grant in the community until they apply. But they are optimistic that businesses will take advantage of the opportunity.

Similar to the Payroll Protection Program the money is intended to help businesses retain employment. Although, under this CDBG businesses have more freedom in how they spend the money. Unlike previous business stimulus efforts through the CARES Act where businesses were directed to spend money on operations and personal protective equipment, this $300,000 can go toward payroll.

“This could be used for mortgage rent, utilities, payroll and other operating expenses, but with the end goal of retaining and increasing the jobs within the pandemic period,” Tavarez said.

Businesses hoping to qualify for this funding must meet myriad criteria. According to an Exeter staff report, businesses: must be a private, for profit business; business and/or any owner may not be suspended, debarred, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from participation in federal transactions; must have less that 50 full-time employees; must have a physical storefront establishment within Exeter’s city limits; must have a current Exeter business license or bring current as a result of assistance; must have experienced a negative impact due to the pandemic, by certifying that the business has experienced at least a 25% reduction in revenue since March 1, 2020 and that grant proceeds will be sued for allowable expenses; must not be a national chain; and must have been operating as a business since January 2020.

If a business receives a CDBG grant than they have to at least create or retain a full-time employee as a requirement. They may also create or retain a low or moderate-income permanent job if they do not have a full-time position.

Tavarez said that because of the experience Self-Help Enterprises has in administering this type of program, their experience with applying for this type of funding and to comply best with requirement of CDBG, the city should contract with them to handle the grant.

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