Lexington’s small business stimulus lauded, could be expanded

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington’s $2.5 million small business stimulus program could wrap next week, but some members of the Urban County Council already are talking about a round 2 at some point, possibly as early as this fall.

In the five weeks since it started taking applications, a volunteer committee of seven bankers ad business leaders that are part of Commerce Lexington’s access loan program have approved $2,187,230 in grants to 151 businesses, an average of almost $14,500 per business, the Council’s Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee was told Tuesday.

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With administrative fees take out, that leaves about $180,000 still to be allocated, Commerce Lexington’s Tyrone Tyra told the committee.

Some 235 businesses applied for funds and a few that likely will receive grants still must supply some paperwork and financial documentation, Tyra said.

Requests that have bee declined are being notified now. Most of those were because they already had problems with the city for taxes or operating infractions.

“We still have plenty of applications still on the books. We are just waiting for information, documentation to come in,” Tyra said. “We would like to be done next week. WE are just waiting on some info, we should be able to get done.”

Of the grants that have bee approved, 30 percent are owed by minorities ad 36 percent are owned by women. When the program was established early last month to help businesses hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, Urban Council members mandated that at least half the money go to minority- or women-owned businesses.

“I can’t promise we will survive but this gives me great hope,” the owner of Sav’s Grill, a West Africa restaurant on East Main, told Council members.

“This will help me keep my salon open,” echoed the owner of Lara’s Beauty Salon, which was closed for more than three moths because of the virus.

Tyra told Council members the committee, which put in more than 126 volunteer hours during the last five weeks, looked at fiances, saving jobs, ad other issues when making decisions. He said some requests were “pretty wild” reaching $60,000 to $80,000 although the award limit was 25,000.

“This shows what you can do, the difference you can make when you are intentional ad focused,” Council member James Brown said during the presentation. “The $5 million in requests the need is out there. We may consider adding more. If we can do anything to help our economy we should.”

“These businesses are the most important businesses in our community. We’ve got to continue to help them,” added Council member Richard Mahoney.

“This program was set up to do the right thing for the right reason,” Commerce Lexington member Larry Forrester said.

The program was funded with money take from the city’s fund balance and economic development surplus and is being replaced by federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funds.

The city already has received about $9.4 million and will get about $15 million. Some of that will go back into surpluses and rainy-day accounts and some also could got into relief programs, for such things as housing assistance, homeless shelters and possibly more small business stimulus.