Members of the city’s Revolving Loan Fund on Tuesday awarded another $26,000 to seven businesses in an effort to bolster them through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This was the sixth round of grant awards for the RLF committee, which has been charged with handing out $250,000 in funds from the state Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ now revamped Community Development Block Grant Program.
With this latest round of mini-grants, the city has now awarded money to 47 local businesses, benefiting nearly 300 employees.
“So you’ve helped a lot of people and a lot of businesses,” Matt Sward with the Loogootee-based Southern Indiana Development Commission told members of the RLF committee Tuesday as they met at City Hall, 201 Vigo St.
Depending on the number of employees a business has, it can be eligible for anywhere from $2,000 up to $10,000 under the city’s mini-grant program.
Most of the seven businesses awarded funds Tuesday were in the lower tiers, earning either $2,000 or $4,000.
The city has $88,000 left to spend but has until the end of May to do so.
RLF members have oft talked in recent weeks of ways to more quickly spend the remaining monies, likely by adjusting the tiers and retroactively awarding more money to past recipients.
City Clerk-Treasurer Cathy Lane told committee members Tuesday that she ran a couple of different scenarios, looking at one specifically that would award those in the lowest tier another $1,000, those in the second-lowest an additional $2,000 and so on. Doing so would spend most of the remaining funds, likely leaving the committee with just about $10,000 left to spend.
The city has been trying to spend the $250,000 for months, and businesses have been relatively slow to come forward — but they have come forward, pointed out committee member Craig Kirk.
“Every time we think we’re done we get six more (applicants),” he said. “But I think eventually we’ll have to do something.”
Mayor Joe Yochum, also a committee member, agreed.
“I think we should wait to see if we get more applicants before we get rid of the money altogether,” he said.
It’s also possible, Sward told the committee, to go after even more OCRA funds for small businesses.
The state organization has opened up a third phase of Community Development Block Grants, and while mini-grants for businesses is a possibility, this next round will be more competitive, and there are additional opportunities for spending the funds, such as awarding it to food banks or child care centers struggling due to COVID-19.
Yochum said he is still exploring options with SIDC to see what kind of application would best suit Vincennes’ needs right now.
But even if the city hasn’t spent all of its first grant award, Sward said it wouldn’t hurt a second application for similar funds, should that be what Vincennes opts to do.
So, for now, committee members agreed it would simply go out for a seventh round of mini-grant applications and see what businesses come forward.
The county commissioners have been charged with distributing the county’s $250,000 grant award, and earlier this month awarded three more applications totaling $15,000.
The county has, so far, awarded 29 businesses money from its first OCRA grant award. They have left about $105,000 to give away.
County officials, however, have struggled more than their city counterparts in meeting low-to-moderate income guidelines set forth by OCRA.
The county has about three applications left on the table because awarding them would drop them below the 51% low-to-moderate income threshold.
Cities and towns giving away this money must be sure that at least 51% of all employees affected by the grant dollars meet federal low-to-moderate income guidelines.
The city’s current percentage sits at more than 64%.
For more information on the county’s process, see the application on the county’s website at www.knoxcounty.in.gov.
Businesses can also call City Hall at 812-882-7285 for more information on the city’s mini-grant program.