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City of Columbia working to help minority-owned, woman-owned businesses

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The city is working on a plan for where it would like money from the CARES Act to be used.

Housing Programs Manager for the City of Columbia, Randy Cole, said the money will have to be used for things directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have been awarded as a community our community development block grant CARES Act funding, but we have to come up with plans for how we utilize it." Cole said.

Cole said the housing programs division is hoping to bring a plan to present to city council at the July 6 meeting.

The Housing Programs Division is currently looking at three different areas where the money can be used: rent, mortgage and utility assistance, assistance for small businesses and other public services that can help with vulnerable populations.

In April, the Microenterprise Recovery Loan Program in Columbia opened at 8 a.m. and closed shortly before noon when the city received as many applications as they had funding for. The application process for the loan was first come, first serve.

City leaders have voiced support for using money from the CARES Act for a similar purpose.

Community development has come up with a points system to use if money is approved to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The system is broken down in the following way:

  • 1 point for businesses with 100% ownership residing within Columbia
  • 1 point for businesses with at least 51% minority ownership (MBE)
  • 1 point for businesses with at least 51% female ownership (WBE)
  • 1 point for businesses unable to access PPP, or SBA programs
  • 1 point for business investing at least 20% of assistance in adapting to on-going social distancing requirements and business resiliency (greater online presence, adapting space for social distancing and safety, purchase of personal protective equipment)

Employees with the community development department have been working with community partners the NAACP, Men’s Minority Network, Downtown CID, Jim Whitt and other local partners to communicate to businesses who could apply.

Nickie Davis with the Downtown Community Improvement District said she wanted to help ensure that, if the money is approved for small businesses, it is distributed properly.

"Our businesses in the District have us to advocate for them and make sure that they know that this is coming up, and how to apply, and when to apply, but there's a lot of businesses that are not inside the District that don't have people there to advocate for them," Davis said.

She said the new guideline would serve as a good first step to ensure everyone has a chance to apply and not only those who are part of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce or the Downtown Community Improvement District.

She said the businesses who fall under the categories in the guidelines may need help more than other small businesses.

"They are typically the ones that struggle a little bit more with funding, with being a startup, and we want to make sure that we're raising up everyone in our community in an equal way,: Davis said.

Davis, along with Cole and other community partners, will be splitting up the city's minority and women owned business directory to call each one at least two weeks before a program opens if the money is approved.

Davis said this type of funding for small businesses is still as important as when the coronavirus pandemic began because funding is beginning to run out.

"Rent is coming back due, back payments of things that were put off at the beginning are now coming due, and this money that started from the beginning is starting to run out already," she said.

Boone / Columbia / Coronavirus / Economy / Health / Mid-Missouri Business / Public Health Alert / Top Stories / Top Stories

Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.

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