The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) is starting a grant program later this week to help Alexandria businesses recover from coronavirus.
“The program is opening applications on Thursday and is focused on assisting business going through reopening following the pandemic,” Landrum said.
Landrum said many of the businesses reopening will face new costs, like equipment and furniture to socially distance customers and sanitize afterward. As the city progresses through the phases of recovery, Landrum said these will be the new normal in how companies interact with customers.
“All of that comes at an expense after a period of time when companies have seen huge, dramatic declines in revenue,” Landrum said.
The first round of the program will have $4 million in funding, half from the city allocation of the CARES Act, and half from reallocated funding from the Alexandria Investment Fund. Landrum said at least at the start, this likely won’t be enough to support all of the businesses that need it.
“We do anticipate there will be more demand than funding available,” Landrum said.
A few terms of eligibility will eliminate some businesses. Most broadly, business owners have to express their intent to remain in business, but they will also have to provide information about their lease to show that it’s applicable through the end of the year to demonstrate a commitment to staying in business.
Any business that has opened since March 1 of 2019 is also out of luck for the grant program, as the eligibility requires businesses to show profits year-after-year until coronavirus. Landrum said this is to be able to show the business was stable and could be profitable again.
“We want to invest in businesses with the best chance of surviving,” Landrum said. “Comparing year over year, month to month, is best and most accurate way to show that.”
Corporate-owned businesses are ineligible as well, an attempt to avoid the payouts to megacorporations that plagued earlier small business grant programs. Landrum said a locally owned franchise of a larger chain could still be eligible, though.
“For a business to apply, has to be a locally owned franchise and they would have to present that paperwork,” Landrum said. “There are a number of athletic companies that are national brands but locally-owned franchises. Want to help those people but not direct resources to a corporate entity.”
The grant program is divided into three categories based on employment size, which determines the maximum grant for each business.
- Smallest (2-24 employees): $10,000 maximum
- Medium (25-49 employees): $15,000 maximum
- Largest (50-100 employees): $20,000 maximum
“A lot of the qualifications and the eligibility criteria focus on companies with a physical footprint in Alexandria,” Landrum said. ‘It’s recognizing businesses with a physical space are more likely to incur these costs. Examples include restaurants, where many had to buy new furniture for outdoor dining.”
Landrum said other professions, like physical therapists, personal groomers, massage parlors, will all need similar health measures. Even office spaces, which have turned towards more open concepts and squeezing people into smaller footprints, will have to undergo a radical adjustment to keep employees safe.
Background for the program is provided in English, Spanish, Arabic and Amharic, but Landrum said AEDP has phone translation services for business owners speaking any language.
Even for businesses who aren’t able to get a grant through ALX B2B, Landrum said there are other ways AEDP can help.
“One of the number one things we’ve been helping with is talking through real estate portfolios, [helping business owners] understand terms of leases and having conversations with landlords,” Landrum said. “I think that’s something people don’t realize we can and want to do.”
Landrum said AEDP can also help talk businesses through cash flow, marketing, and HR issues and utilize a variety of resources.
“AEDP and our partners are intended to be a trusted advisor to the business community,” Landrum said. “If any business owner has a question about anything, we might not have the answer, but we’re a connector for what those businesses need. One of the things we can do is listen and be a sympathetic and empathetic ear. When people are anxious, upset, devastated — and on top of that own a business — we can help.”