As the coronavirus pandemic enters its ninth month, some businesses continue to struggle with making their rent and paying full-time employees. With the first announcements of federal relief long in the rearview mirror, businesses have had to stretch their forgivable loans and paycheck grants thin in order to survive.
But now, some local businesses may be in for a little relief as the city of Bakersfield expands eligibility requirements for its own small-business grant program.
On Monday, the city announced it had expanded its B-CARES assistance program to now include businesses that have already received government support. Previously, the city did not process applications from businesses that had already received money from the Paycheck Protection Program or Kern Recovers, two funding streams made possible through the $2.2 trillion Corona Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Donald Trump in late March.
B-CARES is also funded through the CARES Act, and now some local businesses will be allowed to double dip into the revenue source.
Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, says local businesses have been expressing a desire for additional aid. In a series of roundtables conducted over the last week, the chamber asked businesses about their needs as the economy began to reopen.
“What we’re hearing is frankly unsettling — businesses are struggling to stay open and the support they received through stimulus programs is dwindling,” he wrote in an email to The Californian. “Our hope is that B-CARES can help businesses survive and bridge their operations until the local economic conditions are strengthened, or additional federal stimulus is approved.”
Those businesses that have applied for B-CARES, but whose applications were not processed because they had already received aid, will not need to reapply. Bakersfield city spokesman Joseph Conroy said the city had received more than 250 such applications, which will now be reviewed again for eligibility.
So far the city has approved 127 applications totaling $665,000. The majority of the grants have been given to businesses with five or fewer full-time employees, and many have been doled out to owner-operators with zero employees who were ineligible for either PPP or Kern Recovers loans because they had no payroll costs.
“Since we announced the B-CARES program in September, the focus has been on local small or microbusinesses that either weren’t eligible for or could not receive federal or county funding for various reasons outside of their control,” Conroy wrote in an email to The Californian. “That was a decision the city made in direct response to feedback staff received from the local business community.”
As of Friday, $2.3 million of the $3 million the city initially allocated for B-CARES remained available. The city must expend the CARES Act resources by December in order to meet a government deadline.
“The program has been a success to date,” Conroy wrote, “and through this minor change, will provide much needed funding to a broader segment of businesses within our community that continue to feel the economic impacts of COVID-19.”
To be eligible, businesses must be located within city limits. Grants are available in $5,000 increments, up to $20,000 based on the number of full-time employees. Only businesses with 25 or fewer employees and revenues of $5 million or less in 2019 are eligible, the city said in a news release.
For more information on B-CARES, visit the city’s website at www.bakersfieldcity.us/BCARES.