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Decatur completes second round of emergency business grants

Business Decatur

Decatur completes second round of emergency business grants

A lone pedestrian makes his way down Church Street in Downtown Decatur on Saturday, March 21, 2019.

By Cathi Harris, contributor 

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur has completed its second round of emergency funding for small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, issuing grants totaling $525,000 to 29 local businesses. 

Angela Threadgill, director of planning and economic development for the City of Decatur, presented an update on the status of the program to the Downtown Decatur Development Authority (DDA) board on Friday.

“The average grant amount was just over $18,000,” Threadgill said. “The total amount of requests for funds was $750,000 from 42 eligible applicants. If we receive additional funding from the federal, state, or county governments, then we will look to see if we can fund some of those unfunded requests.”

Decaturish.com received a $10,000 grant from the city through this program after missing out on the initial grant funds. In both instances, the grants were awarded via a lottery system.

The grants were made with funds the city and DDA originally set aside to fund an emergency loan program to businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Decatur later received $3 million in funding through the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and decided to set aside $500,000 from that money to forgive the first round of loans, converting that program into a grant program and rolling over the money allocated by the city and DDA into a new grant program to help more businesses. One business who received a loan in the first round, decided to refuse the offer to convert it to a grant and repay the money, anyway. That money was rolled over to allow the program to offer more assistance, Threadgill noted.

Although the grant amounts might not seem very large, they provided critical help to many small businesses, DDA Board Chair Conor McNally said.

“While it may not seem like a huge amount of money, for many of these businesses it was incredibly important,” he said.  “It may have made the difference between whether they were able to keep going or not.”

In other business:

— The DDA Board voted to extend its contract with The Wilbert Group for another six months; with a fee schedule set at $4,000 a month. The Wilbert Group provides communications and marketing support to the development authority, including maintaining an e-newsletter to real estate and banking professionals and other strategic communications in support of marketing available office space in Decatur. Under the contract extension, the group will expand its focus to include promotion of retail and restaurant spaces as well as city events.

— DDA Executive Director Angela Threadgill presented a mid-year update of the authority’s finances. Property tax revenue for the city—which is the DDA’s main source of funds—is holding steady despite the pandemic. Although revenue for the DDA is down slightly for the year, the authority has also had fewer expenses. The DDA should be able to complete the year without further drawing down its fund balance or dipping into its money market fund, she said.

— Downtown Program Manager Shirley Baylis announced that the city had a successful response to its Spend $200 and Get $20 and the Shop $50 Get $10 promotions for downtown businesses. They plan to do a similar promotion from April 10 to May 9 with local restaurants and retail businesses – customers who spend $100 at a participating restaurant will get a $10 retail gift card to a local business. Fab Fridays will be reduced from weekly events to the first Friday of the month at the request of several business owners.

— The board elected new officers for 2021. Conor McNally will serve as chair, Noah Peeters will serve as vice-chair; Tony Leung will serve as secretary-treasurer.

— David Harry, a Decatur resident and a senior vice president of Preferred Apartment Communities, has joined the DDA board as a new member.

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