Aspen City Hall has made grants totaling over $886,000 to help 108 local businesses affected by COVID-19 pay the rent.
The awards, for up to $14,000 per business, are intended to pay up to a third of a business’ rent over three months.
For a business to qualify, among other criteria its landlord must agree to take a one-third reduction in the rent due for the three-month duration of the program. Businesses were required to share their lease terms with the city in order to formulate the amount of the award.
A committee consisting of two city officials and three private citizens that reviewed the applications recommended denial for 29 businesses that sought relief, which is being funded from $6 million in funds Aspen City Council has agreed to put toward local relief from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential reasons for a denial include: the landlord elected not to participate; the applicant did not apply for other financial assistance through the Small Business Administration (SBA) or Payroll Protection Program (PPP); the business has a significant tax remittance issue; was subletting a space for which another application had been submitted; had a business that was not forcefully closed as a result of public health orders; had an interest in the building being leased to the business; and/or was deemed a chain store pursuant to the city’s municipal code.
Twenty-seven of the businesses that will receive funds under the program will get two-thirds of their largest potential award. Reasons for the lower amount include: an unpaid or unrenewed business license for 2020; an outstanding utility bill; an agreement from the landlord for less than the full three months; or a marginal sales tax amount still due for February.
“If applicants remedied these obligations immediately, the committee felt it could recommend a partial award, noting that other applicants that had met all the criteria should receive more than those that did not fulfill the requirements,” says a memo from the Finance Director Pete Strecker and City Manager Sara Ott delving into the use of municipal relief funds.
City officials are not identifying the businesses that applied but were rejected.
Strecker and Ott’s memo included a list of businesses that received funds, broken down into categories based on the range of the award. Twelve businesses reviewed received awards of $2,499 or less; 19 were in the $2,500 to $4,999 category; 18 received grants of $5,000 to $7,499; 22 were in the $7,500 to $9,999 category and 36 businesses received grants of between $10,000 and $14,000, which was the maximum amount a single business could qualify for regardless of their rent due.
The city has notified all applicants of their status under the program as of Friday and is in “further communication with landlords … to expedite payment.”
The concept behind the program was that the city’s assistance was to be met with cooperation from the landlords who agreed to the one-third rent cut, and from businesses still paying a portion of their lease.
In addition to the commercial rent assistance grant program, the city has earmarked $600,000 for a revolving loan program for small businesses. This program is actively being developed and an update will be provided once ready, according to the memo.
Additional grant awards to arts nonprofits are being recommended in the amount of $250,000. These funds could possibly be supplemented with further discretionary resources from the Wheeler Opera House Fund collected through leased spaces, rental and box office fees but not from any real estate transfer tax receipts.
For a complete list of the businesses that received awards and the participating landlords, see the attached pdf, then go to pages 23 and 24.