Rifle City Council leans toward allowing CARES Act funds to also help businesses that are not locally owned
In September, Rifle announced it would begin to accept applications from small businesses and nonprofit organizations interested in acquiring CARES Act emergency loans.
Since then, planning director and assistant city manager Nathan Lindquist said during Wednesday’s Rifle City Council meeting that 43 businesses and eight non-profits have so far applied. And of the $750,000 in CARES Act funds the city intends to divvy, there’s about $127,000 left on the table.
Over the past month, however, the council has questioned whether they should allow businesses that are not locally owned to be eligible to receive emergency loans. Earlier this month Lindquist told city councilors that he’s received requests from businesses that fall under this category to tweak how the city dispenses CARES Act funds.
“I’m concerned that we opened up a can of worms with that,” said Councilor Ed Green during Wednesday’s council meeting.
Currently, businesses are not eligible for such loans unless they are locally owned. The city has until Dec. 30 to allocate the remaining $127,000 or the amount will be forfeited, Lindquist noted.
All CARES Act funding, however, will be reimbursed.
“If we get reimbursed 100% and have to do it by December, then now we can open it up to anybody who applies, preferably who’s in Rifle or Garfield County,” said Councilor Brian Condie. … “A hair stylist from Junction (who) works here at the hair salon place and she’s eligible as an independent contractor, let ‘em apply.”
Councilor Sean Strode agreed that because the city’s essentially an intermediary in distributing the funds, it could reach businesses owners who might have been left out of the loop without affecting the city budget.
“With all the money that’s right here, I’d like to see it go to someone that can use it,” he said. “I think for me, the independent contractors, if their place of business is here and they’re servicing our residents, to me that’s important.”
Specifically, City Manager Scott Hahn said that current criteria for CARES Act funding eligibility pertains to business owners who live in Garfield County or independent contractors that do business in Rifle.
In response, city councilors eventually came to a consensus: broaden the criteria. But what does that mean? The council mulled whether a non-resident business owner must own a storefront, if the business owner is licensed or – if a business owner has faced significant challenges and has already undergone a mandated closure – if that owner can access the funds on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“I know a construction contractor that operates out of his truck,” Condie said. “He lives in Rifle but he doesn’t have a storefront. He’s got a license… but he’s hurtin’ for money right now.”
After deciding that business owners who possess some form of professional qualification that they’re eligible for CARES Act loans, Lindquist was asked to broaden the language in the current criteria.
“We’ve only got six weeks left before we have to use (use the money),” Condie said. “That’s not a lot of time.”
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