QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. — The coronavirus has not only affected the health of thousands across the state, but also the economic health of small businesses. According to a study by personal finance website WalletHUB, Arizona is ranked seventh in the country for most small businesses affected by the virus.
In July, the town of Queen Creek began providing economic relief grants for its small businesses in an effort to offset sanitation and safety costs.
At the town council meeting that approved the grant, Economic Development Director Doreen Cott said the grant would, “assist the town’s business community with economic relief and enhance the health, safety and welfare of the town’s residents and others utilizing and working in businesses within the town limits.”
A total of $500,000 has been set aside to help establish the business grant program. The unanimous vote decided that the grant will specially help with, “sanitation and employee and customer safety enhancements.”
“The Queen Creek town council approved $500,000 to be used to support our local small businesses,” the Town of Queen Creek Public Relations Officer Constance Halonen-Wilson said.
Up to $12,500 in funds are distributed based on the number of employees who work 40 hours or more per week, and hired before March 1.
Halonen-Wilson reported that since the beginning of October the number of applicants for the grant has increased weekly. She explained that the town has made several efforts to ensure that local businesses are aware of the grant through social media, newsletters, and community outreach.
“We have received 72 grant applications, and the money request is just over $304,000, that’s about 60% of the fund being utilized,” Halonen-Wilson said.
This leaves about $196,000 still available for other small businesses in Queen Creek.
The grant will stay open until all the funds are used to help local businesses “to provide relief during this difficult time” Halonen-Wilson said.
In order to qualify, businesses must be certified by the small business association, located in Queen Creek, and show evidence of a sanitation and safety plan.
Queen Creek small business owner Matt Aronson, who owns Schmear: Bagelry and Cafe, said the grant helped to pay for sanitization costs and ensure he could continue to provide jobs for his employees.
Aronson said, “We were able to put it towards additional supplies and cleaning implementations for issues pertaining to Covid for the restaurant. Anything excess was going to additional labor costs to help make sure that employees are staying on board and we don’t have to let anyone go due to the decrease in business.”
The town’s decision has helped business owners like Aronson to continue to run his business.
“The council’s intention was really to provide relief to our local businesses during this difficult time. And I think that the grant has done that. It’s demonstrated good will from the town and our support for our local business and in turn it’s also an opportunity for us as the town to remind our residents how important it is to support our local businesses and how important they are to the community,” Halonen-Wilson said.