The Marana Town Council unanimously approved a new economic relief program aimed at helping local small businesses adversely impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
During their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, council members allocated $100,000 to the Marana Matters: COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Program, which awards funding up to $2,000 to local small businesses for PPE reimbursement. The award can be applied to previously purchased items such as facemasks, gloves and other supplies - including hand sanitizer and plexiglass barriers - that promote safe work practices.
Marana Matters is retroactive and will cover the cost of social-distancing items purchased March 1, 2020, or later, according to Heath Vescovi-Chiordi, assistant to the town manager. The March date coincides with then-President Trump’s declaration of a public health emergency when the coronavirus reached the United States, he said.
“It’s essentially a grant. The money will go directly to them [the business owner], most likely in a check. Then they can use it to reimburse themselves or pay for future measures and PPE.”
Businesses that receive less than the full award amount are still eligible to receive additional funds while they are available, he said.
“If a business expended $1,000 to date, they would still be eligible for that additional $1,000 as long as the program still has money in it. Those seeking additional funds need only to submit new receipts to the economic development department.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, the council was presented with two options for the program:
- An instant allocation of $100,000 to the Marana Matters program and a separate amount set aside should the program’s initial funding run out.
- An instant $100,000 with the option to add more funding at a later date.
The council chose to go with the latter option.
The town will begin accepting applications for the program on Feb. 1, and the funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Locally owned for-profit and nonprofit businesses are eligible, but home-based businesses, publicly held companies, real estate firms and other financial industries will not be able to apply for the program. In addition, businesses owned by town staff or relatives of town staff are ineligible for the program, according to the town’s website.
Qualifying businesses must have a physical Marana address with a valid Town of Marana business license, have between three and 25 full-time employees and their annual revenue can’t exceed $3,000,000.
Furthermore, eligible businesses must be able to show their finances have been negatively impacted during the pandemic and must submit a health and safety protocol work plan with the application to receive funding. The work plan must adhere to current CDC guidelines, said Vescovi-Chiordi.
“Businesses will have to show that they’ve made less than they would have in a given calendar year. We use that information to classify what a businesses’ needs are,” he said. “We’re also asking for a Statement of Hardship, which could be nothing more than a paragraph how COVID-19 has affected their business in any sort of way they want to elaborate on.”
The $100,000 program is expected to help about 50 Marana businesses if each are awarded the full amount. Funding for the program will come from Marana’s General Fund Contingency, which is set aside to help the community to navigate unforeseen circumstances—like a pandemic.
Marana businesses that previously received government, state or local pandemic assistance like the Paycheck Protection Program or any local pandemic relief funds are still eligible for this new program, said Vescovi-Chiordi.
“When we were developing this, we talked about how people may be worried about the concept of double-dipping. But given the drawn-out nature of the pandemic and how the money will be used toward PPE and social distancing measures, we agreed to allow it. This was not something they [businesses] had budgeted for and was not a part of their business plan.
Vescovi-Chiordi also said the town is planning a social media blitz to help spread the word about the program before the February start date.
“We’ve set the date for Feb. 1 for when the application process will be open to businesses. It just seemed like a nice round date,” he said. “It gives us about a week to prepare internally to make sure we’ve got all our ducks in a row.”
In October, the town council directed town staff to develop a small business assistance program to help local establishments as the pandemic continues. Town staff used several similar small business assistance programs used by other Southern Arizona municipalities as the template for Marana Matters, according to Vescovi-Chiordi.
“After we took everything into consideration, we then looked at some things more specific to Marana, including staff capacity, the gift clause, staff time, third-party administration elements and things like that. After we had gone through everything we ended up with the Marana Matters: COVID-19 Small Business Assistance Program.”
To find out more information about the program or to apply, check out the town’s website at marana.gov.