By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – In order to support businesses during the pandemic, the City of Delray Beach, the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) announced they have come together to create the Delray Beach Business Assistance Partnership.
City Commissioner Adam Frankel spoke in Monday’s City Update, “Here in the City, CRA, DDA and Chamber, they’ve all partnered up to work in a great collaboration, anyone needs that kind of assistance. [There is] a page with all the resources that our business owners can get to in a one stop area.”
Frankel explains, “So I would go to that site, look at the information, the resources are right there, and I applaud the city for making it so easy for that information to get out there.”
The program is intended to provide a central resource for local businesses to be connected to the state and federal programs that can help their businesses weather the COVID-19 storm.
In addition, the partnership says that direct, individualized assistance regarding state and federal programs to support a resident’s business is available at the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
Alternatively, as the web page says, those interested can email Jacqueline Ramirez, Delray Beach Liaison at SBDC, at email@example.com. The process to receive help is to fill in an online form about your business, and then they tell you within a few days you will hear back.
At the time of writing Ms. Ramirez was not able to provide a comment on the demand for the service, the most common type of industry, or what businesses might do to prepare for a prolonged pandemic.
On August 5th, City of Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia, shared in a statement, “Our town has been blessed by decades of a robust business environment that carried us thru some very challenging times. Yesterday’s challenges however, do not compare to the nationwide economic struggles and uncertainty felt today.”
“Our City is also blessed by a synergy in leadership driven by a group of women heading up the DDA, CRA, Chamber of Commerce and the City. This group meets regularly in an effort to seek ways to manage, attract and retain business in the new COVID-19 world.”
One of a list of ten ideas the Mayor shared is to open more of the Avenue to pedestrian traffic. “I’ve suggested closing sections of Atlantic Ave before, but wasn’t supported,” she explained.
“My suggestion today; close just the westbound traffic allowing a single lane of traffic to head eastbound from Swinton to Federal. This would add a full traffic lane of space for more pedestrian room,” she wrote.
Another program announced by the DDA in early June was the $30,000 designated for a Local Business Relief Assistance Grant program to assist small storefront businesses within the district. The program planned to award up to thirty businesses with $1,000 grants each.
“As an unfortunate result of these extraordinary times, all non-essential businesses within downtown Delray Beach had been forced to close or change their operation,” said the Executive Director of Delray Beach DDA at the time.
“Downtown Delray Beach is home to over 96 percent small businesses with many in operation along Atlantic Avenue for over ten years, and now this integral fabric of the community is facing an unprecedented crisis.”
Also the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approved the CARES Restart Business Grants Program to accelerate the reopening of businesses hardest hit by COVID-19. The $60 million Business Restart Program uses a portion of the county’s $261 million allocation from the Federal CARES Act approved by Congress.
The BCC has dedicated $50 million toward businesses with 25 or fewer employees and $10 million towards businesses with greater than 25 employees. The application period is now over but could reopen if grant dollars remain after the current applications are processed.
As of Tuesday, August 4th, there had been 4,989 total applications received, with 144 still in review. 1,932 have been denied due to being inaccurate or ineligible, and only 221 have been approved.
* This article was updated on August 6th to include input from City of Delray Beach Mayor Shelly Petrolia.