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Rifle’s Loan programs help keep businesses going

RREDC helps local businesses through the pandemic with two loan programs funded by the city

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Many businesses in western Garfield County continue to try and get back to the normal they knew before the COVID-19 pandemic. In late April the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. requested the city start a fund to help local businesses affected by the statewide shutdown.

“We approached City Council and said we had identified that there definitely was a number of businesses in town — mostly restaurants, retail, salons, things like that — which weren’t able to access these Small Business Administration Funds Program,” RREDC Executive Director Katie Mackley said.

RREDC and the city implemented the Rifle Small Business Emergency Loan Program, allocating $100,000 to offer $2,000 loans to local businesses. The program was designed to help businesses fill that gap, in terms of covering operation expenses while they had to be closed.

Mackley said they processed 39 applications for a total of $77,000 for the program that closed June 18.

The town of Silt also joined forces with the RREDC, allocating $20,000 toward businesses during the shutdown. Mackley said they were able to process three applications to help businesses pay rent and utilities while they were closed.

“I think we were really pleased with how successful it was and how quickly we were able to distribute the funds to our local businesses. I’ve heard overwhelmingly from businesses that it really did bridge that gap. Without it they would’ve been in a world of hurt,” Mackley said. “I keep telling the City Council that what they did was such an amazing thing. I think we were able to keep quite a few local businesses from closing by having these funds available to them.”

As long as businesses provide receipts demonstrating they used the funds for operating expenses during a certain time period the loans will be forgiven.

“We’ve already forgiven a few businesses and are in the process of forgiving more,” Mackley said.

RESTAURANT MODIFICATION PROGRAM

A little over a month ago the city began building parklets for businesses on Third Street to use to bring their capacity up as they begin to open back up after the statewide shutdown.

“Everyone has taken their own spin on decorating them and doing different things,” Rifle City Planner Nathan Lindquist said. “It’s been pretty successful and a good trial run for what we can do in the future. We learned some things about what works and what doesn’t.”

To help restaurants not on Third Street, the city, again with the help of the RREDC, implemented the COVID-19 Restaurant Modification Loan Program for outdoor dining.

The program made $50,000 available for Third Street restaurants and $50,000 to non-Third Street restaurants to help with interior and exterior modification due to COVID-19.

Mackley said loans were capped at $5,000, and they ended up funding 14 restaurants that took advantage of the program.

Restaurants off Third Street used the money to expand their outdoor seating, either building a deck or converting parking lot space. Restaurants on Third Street used the money for tables, chairs and shade structures.

Like the emergency loan program all loans will be forgiven after businesses provided documentation for expenses related to COVID-19.

“I’m so incredibly grateful to the city of Rifle and the town of Silt for having the vision to assist our businesses in this way. I think it really speaks highly of our communities and how willing we are to come to the table and help businesses succeed during very challenging times,” Mackley said. “One of the exciting things to come out of it is how much the community loves the outdoor seating. I feel like that’s a bright spot we can take out of this challenging experience.”

CARES ACT FUNDING

During the July 1 Rifle City Council meeting it was announced that the city is eligible for funding from the CARES Act. City Planner Nathan Lindquist said they are currently working on what qualifies to use the funding for.

“We are eligible for $818,000, and are putting together a draft budget that we will share back with the City Council in August,” Lindquist said. “It’s a mix of different things that are eligible from business loans we have already done, potentially some more business loans if that’s needed.” 

Lindquist said the city can also get reimbursed for disinfection of the playground equipment they are doing currently, and also for the staff that is helping out with LIFT-UP distributions.

“We’ll be trying to come up with an overall picture of what we can spend it on, and tracking it as we go to make sure we spend it all one way or the other,” Lindquist said.

kmills@postindependent.com


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