Somerville Launches New Round of Small Business Relief
$750,000 in new funding available to local businesses; Mayor and City Councilors unite to request more than $550,000 in small business fees be waived
The City is making a new, $750,000 round of relief available to Somerville’s small businesses as part of an ongoing effort to preserve the local character of the city’s commercial establishments during the coronavirus pandemic. Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and City Councilors also united to request that the City Licensing Commission and City Council waive more than $550,000 in annual licensing fees. This follows an earlier round of small business relief during the summer where the City distributed $1 million in emergency funds to impacted small businesses and waived almost $200,000 in fees.
“This ongoing public health crisis hits the local business community particularly hard and we need to help these establishments get to the other side of this ordeal,” Mayor Curtatone said. “These businesses are the cornerstone of our local economy and they create jobs, diversity and vibrancy in our city squares. By making sure restaurants, shops and service providers can weather the economic storm, we will enable Somerville’s economy to rebound more quickly when the virus is finally under control.”
The monetary relief will come in the form of forgivable loans through federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding. It will be broken into two separate categories.
Somerville-based businesses with a brick-and-mortar location or at least one full-time employee may apply for Small Business Relief Funds of up to $7,500. Seven businesses who just missed qualifying for awards from the previous round of funding will automatically receive this new round of funding. Businesses that received funds in the previous round will not be eligible for the new funding.
The second category is Outdoor Dining Relief Funds for CDBG-eligible local restaurants that hold outdoor dining permits. They are eligible to receive $1,000 each to help them procure equipment, such as heaters and barricades for outdoor dining areas, to help them continue serving customers through the winter. A total of 84 businesses are eligible for that relief and the funds will be distributed to them on a rolling basis as their applications are approved by the City. Funds have been set aside to make sure every qualifying restaurant will receive this relief.
Business Fee Waivers
With the support of City Councilors who called for the same, Mayor Curtatone submitted a successful request that the City Licensing Commission waive numerous small business fees through the end of the City fiscal year on June 30, 2021. On Thursday, October 29, the Licensing Commission waived the fees. These include liquor license fees and biannual building inspection fees for restaurants. The City still will conduct its regular inspections, but the fees will not be assessed. The liquor license fees alone can total up to $4,000 per year for an establishment.
In addition, also with support of City Councilors, the Mayor will request City Council approval to waive City Clerk fees such as those for pool tables, taxicab medallions and livery licenses, as well as inspection fees for daycares and hotels. Again, the City will continue to conduct those inspections, but the fees will be waived. In total, the fee waivers will amount to $553,234 on top of the $199,645 in City fees to local businesses waived earlier this year.
“The COVID-19 crisis has impacted all of us in many ways, but has been especially devastating for our small businesses, many of which continue to struggle with whether or not they will be able to keep their doors open each month,” said City Councilor At-Large Mary Jo Rossetti. “Not only does this impact their place of business, but their livelihood and their families. For months, I have heard from devastated business owners seeking any additional support, and this small gesture can mean thousands of dollars in savings for small business owners, and it could not come at a more critical time. I am thankful to the administration for taking this step to further support our businesses.”
Relief Fund Details
Due to federal rules, nonprofit institutions and liquor/cannabis stores are not eligible for the Small Business Relief Funds. The deadline for those applications is Monday, November 30, at 3 p.m. A live virtual lottery will be conducted on Friday, December 4, at 10 a.m. to determine which establishments receive relief funding. Extra lottery weight will be given to businesses unable to open as part of phases 3 and 4 of the state reopening guidelines, licensed daycare facilities and women/minority-owned businesses.
Applications and full eligibility requirements can be found at www.somervillema.gov/bizrelief. Applications may be submitted immediately and all Somerville-based businesses adversely affected by this pandemic are encouraged to apply.
“Do not assume you don’t qualify,” said City Director of Economic Development Thomas Galligani. “Our office is available to go through the application process to help out any local business that might be eligible for these funds, and in coordination with the Office of Immigrant Affairs, we can offer assistance in multiple languages.”
Businesses that have questions can contact Program Coordinator Nick Schonberger at [email protected] for more information, details or clarifications. Additional outreach will be made to local businesses that do not have an online presence.
For more information and regular COVID-19 updates, visit www.somervillema.gov/coronavirus and sign up for City alerts at www.somervillema.gov/Alerts. We urge you to sign up for every alert method you are able to receive: phone call, text, email. Please also follow FB.com/SomervilleCity and @SomervilleCity.