For many small businesses, the struggle to keep doors open and lights on during the pandemic continues. In Globe, a number of business owners recently gained a measure of relief through city grants.
During a March 9 Globe City Council meeting, Local First Arizona Foundation CEO Kimber Lanning updated councilmembers on the city’s business relief program, in which Local First distributed the grant monies. Lanning said 66 local businesses had applied for funding and 62 were awarded grants averaging $1,967, for a total of $122,000. She said the remaining four businesses either did not respond or, in one case, lacked a city business license. Grant amounts ranged from $1,000 to $2,500.
It started with $843,484 – the amount of AZ CARES funding the City of Globe was awarded in May 2020. That money went toward public health and safety personnel salaries, as directed by Governor Doug Ducey when he established AZ CARES, but it did free up city capital improvement funds for other uses. This newly freed cash was budgeted into public safety expenditures that included eight new police vehicles and a type 3 wildland fire truck.
In a November meeting, the City Council made plans to allocate a portion of those funds to aid struggling small businesses. An initial proposal of $50,000, with Local First serving to distribute the grants, was tabled after several business owners asked the council to put off a decision on the amount and eligibility criteria until businesses could further present their needs at a December 1 Town Hall meeting.
Over 40 business owners attended that meeting to speak out about their struggles in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, with another 40 watching it live on YouTube. In its wake, the city council moved on December 8 to allocate $150,000 for the city’s small business relief program. To make this happen, the purchases of the fire truck and three police vehicles - five had already been bought - were put on hold. (After the $122,000 in business relief grants were disbursed in February, the city completed the purchase of the three police vehicles.)
“We called every single business directly and had a conversation with them about how their business was doing,” Lanning said at the March 9 city council meeting. “We heard from a number of them that this would either help pay their mortgage or rent on their property, or help them with utility bills to keep the lights on at their business.”
For one recipient, Waggin’ Vineyard & Estate, the grant meant being able to hire an additional part-time employee – which they have done. “When they called to award us, they talked to us a little bit about the application. We were extremely happy to learn we’d been awarded the funds,” said co-owner Tim Trent. “We’re glad to be open; we were shut down for two months.” Trent added that they were able to reopen because they have a Series 13 (farm) winery license.
“The application process was very straightforward; it was very user-friendly,” said Waggin’ Vineyard co-owner Daisy Flores. “We’re appreciative that the city gave some financial assistance. In the end, we’re all in it together.”
The process didn’t always run smoothly, however. “The whole program was put on pause, as you’re well aware. That did cause quite a bit of confusion,” Lanning said to councilmembers on March 9.
“I was disappointed in how long it took them to actually complete the process,” said Turn the Page Vintage & Western Apparel owner Cindy Phillips. “The communications were not there and when we were finally approved for our grant funding, halfway through it half of us received our funds and the other half were left not knowing if they would get it. They froze it up because they got audited; called in to account for how they spent all of the money, as I understand it. So the rest of us were left hanging for about another two weeks before they came back and completed the release of the funds.”
City Manager Paul Jepson said the pause was brought on by a call from the State of Arizona, asking the city to attend a conference call with the Treasury Department. According to Jepson a complaint was filed with Treasury, alleging that Globe was misusing CARES funds with their business relief program. Jepson said the city, initially unaware of the complaint’s nature, temporarily put the grant disbursements on hold. “We waited the 10 days to meet with Treasury and learn the nature of the allegation,” he said. “When you get a call from the Auditor General, you need to stop and figure out what’s going on.”
Jepson said that on learning what had happened, the city explained the situation to Treasury and then resumed the program. “We’re very confident that we used the money properly,” he added.
Phillips said Turn the Page’s grant has helped her catch up with rent and sales tax, as well as making a payment on her product, but was still unsure whether her business would survive the pandemic. “It bought me a couple of months,” she said.
“In the bigger picture or a larger business, it doesn’t do anything,” Phillips added. “It had to be somebody as small as me to really be of much significance. At the end of the day, as long as they helped us I’m grateful for that.”
“Everything just slid downhill,” Yesterday’s Treasures owner Eddie Means said, reflecting on the year of Covid-19. His store occupies a historic building – Means said it was built in 1914 – next to the railroad tracks, and he said it needs a great deal of work. That work includes a new heater for the shop’s interior, a new cooler and replacing floors. He faced not only the basic costs of that work, but also the cost of hiring people to carry it out.
While he appreciated the city’s grant funds for his business, Means said they wouldn’t go far. He said that, just to keep his doors open, taxes and insurance alone cost about $3,000 a year. Means added that he would stretch his grant money as much as possible, with replacing the heater as his first priority.
“I appreciate the city working hand-in-hand with these folks, and that’s what we need,” he said.