The Fresno City Council voted to provide COVID-19 financial relief to small businesses during an emergency meeting on Wednesday.
Companies with 25 employees or less will be able to benefit from loans at zero interest. If the business remains open for one year, the loan will be cancelled.
In a separate vote, the board allocated $750,000 to the “Saving Our Small Businesses Act.” Of this amount, $500,000 is funds previously allocated to a center for seniors; $250,000 comes from the city attorney’s budget.
The board also made changes to an emergency amendment covering a variety of issues approved last week.
The most significant change allows bars to reopen and provide curbside service or liquor delivery, provided their license permits.
Helping businesses will help the tax base
“We can help (small businesses) stay in business and protect those jobs and also protect our sales tax base, which supports essential functions like public safety, our roads and parks.” -vsCouncilor Mike Karbassi
Councilman Mike Karbassi created the deed with council members Esmeralda Soria and Luis Chavez
Karbassi is concerned about the fallout from municipal tax revenue related to the closure of businesses due to COVID-19.
“We can help (small businesses) stay in business and protect those jobs and also protect our sales tax base, which supports essential functions like public safety, our roads and parks,” said Karbassi after the meeting. “We are trying to mitigate the fallout from the (emergency) order.”
The law will also reserve 20% of funding for businesses with five or fewer employees.
“This will provide immediate momentum to ensure businesses survive the emergency and will also provide incentive to reopen and re-employ staff made redundant due to this emergency order,” Soria said.
Of the $750,000 allocated, two-thirds of the funding comes from a long-sought-after project for a seniors’ center fund.
“Our elderly are the most vulnerable population we have and we sacrifice a lot to protect them as we should,” Karbassi said. “But our businesses unfortunately bear the burden. Small businesses are the largest employer in the country. We must be responsible in this state of emergency to mitigate the impacts on these families as well. This is the most balanced approach we can find.
Funding will also come from private contributions.
To qualify for the loan, a business must:
— Be a company located in Fresno.
— Viable operation for at least one year prior to March 4, 2020 (when Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency).
— Demonstrate a 25% loss of revenue due to COVID-19.
— No tax liens or judgments against the company
— The owner must personally guarantee the loan.
Chamber supports loan scheme
“This funding could go a long way in helping these businesses keep their doors open – or in many cases – reopen and, more importantly, keep people working.” — Nathan Ahle, Fresno Chamber of Commerce
The “Save Our Small Businesses Act” drew praise from Fresno Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Nathan Ahle.
“It is very encouraging to see the Council recognize the incredible impact small businesses have on Fresno’s economy. This funding could go a long way in helping these businesses keep their doors open – or in many cases – reopen and, most importantly, keep people working,” Ahle told GV Wire. “I have spoken with many of my counterparts in the California Chambers of Commerce and they report a lack of commitment from their municipal government at this point, so we appreciate the council’s quick action. The Chamber stands ready to contribute to these efforts where we can.
Bars can reopen to drink alcohol on the go
The council changed its emergency ordinance allowing bars to offer curbside service or liquor delivery, if their license and state law permit.
The first emergency order issued on March 16 closed bars and wineries.
The council’s new measure also applies to liquor stores.
Other changes made by the board:
— Non-essential businesses that remain open in violation of the emergency order will first receive a warning. Then fines increase to $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 for each subsequent violation.
– Fines collected by the city for businesses that violate the anti-tariff ordinance will go to a COVID-19 emergency response fund.
— Requests under the Public Records Act will still be accepted, but may be delayed during the COVID-19 emergency. Previous language implied that compliance with the transparency measure would be suspended, along with other non-essential city services.
— Clarified language imposing a moratorium on evictions due to non-payment of rent for residential and commercial tenants due to COVID-19 hardship. The only substantial change is that tenants have 10 days to provide the landlord with documentation of these hardships, up from seven previously. In addition, no interest, late fees or penalties can be added.
All votes for Wednesday’s actions were unanimous.
Sporting goods stores allowed to reopen
The city has deemed sports stores an essential business and so they will be allowed to reopen.
Garry Bredefeld, in a press release, said stores would be allowed to sell guns and ammunition.
“We are very pleased that these businesses are now able to reopen and serve the community. We are also delighted that many of our fellow citizens can return to work,” Bredefeld said.
The ban on non-essential businesses is until March 31, unless extended.
A new emergency decree
Also on Wednesday, City Manager Wilma Quan – acting as Director of Emergency Services – posted Emergency Order 2020-007 which details the rules applicable to employees who work from home.
Primarily, the ordinance says workers must always log their hours and use city equipment for city work.
X marks the spot
A large X marked each of the socially distant seats inside the council chambers. With an advertised capacity of 248 places, only 70 places were available. The doors to the rarely used seats on the second floor were locked.
This is the first time the city has used this method of placement.
The Fresno Board of Supervisors also blocked seats at its Tuesday meeting.
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) March 25, 2020
Four council members were present in person: Miguel Arias, Bredefeld, Karbassi and Soria. Paul Caprioglio, Chavez and Nelson Esparza phoned.