City expanding relief grants for Chandler businesses The Chandler Arizonan

City expanding relief grants for Chandler businesses

November 3rd, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
City expanding relief grants for Chandler businesses
City News
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

City of Chandler officials plan to broaden eligibility requirements that local businesses must satisfy to receive financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, the city began disbursing $9.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds to local companies hurt by the pandemic’s economic repercussions.

Businesses had the chance to receive $1,300 for each employee they had retained during the pandemic – with the total amount of relief capped at $10,000 for each recipient.

Micah Miranda, the city’s economic development director, said more than 430 local businesses have already shared in a total $3.2 million but hopes the city will be able to open up the funding to more recipients in the coming weeks.    

“We’re really pleased with how the program’s been responding but we’re looking to expand the program,” Miranda said.

The program’s original requirements only accounted for private businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees on the payroll and didn’t acknowledge the use of independent contractors.

But many in Chandler regularly contract with temporary or seasonal workers for specific services, Miranda said, but they’re not formally recognized as employees of the company.

The city intends to allow local businesses to apply for COVID-19 benefits based on the amount of funds they spend on paying independent contractors.

For every $40,000 spent on independent contractors, a business may be eligible for $1,300 from the city’s COVID-19 relief fund.

Like the previous recipients, applicants will still only be able to obtain up to $10,000 from the relief fund.

Miranda said if a local gym annually spends up to $120,000 on contracting with fitness trainers, then the gym could get a check for $3,900 in order to retain those independent contractors.

Public records show several gyms and fitness studios have already received a portion of the city’s COVID-19 funds based on the employees they have on the regular payroll.

Azfitco, a gym on Riggs Road, East Valley Crossfit, located on Roosevelt Avenue, and MegaFit, a studio located on 54th Street, are among the 430 recipients to get a chunk of the city’s COVID-19 funds thus far.

The other recipients range widely from dental offices to daycare centers to flower shops.

Some other beneficiaries include Lee’s Black Belt Academy on Alma School Road, Burst of Butterflies Art Studio on Boston Street, and SanTan Brewing Company.

Aside from location and size of the company, the city has few requirements for the businesses that apply to get a relief check.

One of the city’s few rules prohibits applicants from spending their relief funds on any political expenditures intended to influence the outcome of an election or state legislation.

The city could demand the return of its COVID-19 funds if a recipient has been found to misuse the money.

Chandler’s large population entitled the city to receive nearly $30 million of federal aid given out through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

City Council chose to spend a third of the funds on helping local businesses, $7 million on improving the city’s technology, $1.6 million for community services and save the rest in the city’s reserves.

Another $500,000 was carved out for grants the city gave out to businesses needing to buy Plexi-Glas, face masks, and hand sanitizer. More than 200 entities have already been reimbursed by the city for protective gear purchased during the pandemic.

When Chandler first received its allocation of federal aid, the city and many other smaller municipalities across Arizona were limited at first with how it handed out COVID-19 funds to local businesses.

Because Arizona law prohibits the government from directly writing checks to private businesses, Chandler was forced to contract with the nonprofit Arizona Community Foundation to process requests for COVID-19 aid.

The city also had to base its program specifically on job retention to ensure the business grants didn’t violate any state or federal laws.

Miranda said the foundation will ask applicants to prove they’re registered within city limits and provide a summary of expenses proving they pay independent contractors.

The city will accept its next cohort of applications until Nov. 9.

Local leaders expressed support for the city’s decision to open up the relief program to more businesses who may have been shut out when applications first opened up.

Councilman Matt Orlando said the city’s gotten many inquiries from businesses hoping to get financial aid for their independent contractors and is pleased the city’s chosen to expand the program’s eligibility criteria.

“It’s going to go a long way and help broaden the base,” Orlando said.

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