Novato Pandemic Relief Fund Swells for Businesses
Author: Will Houston
Publication: Marin IJ
Novato organizations have pledged close to $385,000 to provide grants for small business owners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The contributions, which include money from government agencies and organizations, will be put into the new relief fund. It provides grants of up to $5,000 to qualified small businesses. Businesses have until Sunday at 5 p.m. to submit an application to the city.
Jessica Deakyne, the assistant city manager, originally envisioned raising $200,000 for businesses when she began brainstorming the relief fund. In early April, the Hamilton-based video game publisher 2K contacted Deakyne to ask how it could help.
The company has pledged a $200,000 donation, accounting for more than half the total pledges and contributions.
“I think it’s important to give back and certainly one of the most important places to give back are the places we go out to lunch to and shop and where many of our employees live,” said David Ismailer, president of 2K since 2017.
The next largest contributions came from the city and the county, which each contributed $50,000 to the fund; $25,000 from the Hennessy Funds investment company; and $22,500 from the biotech company Ultragenyx , according to Deakyne.
Other contributors include the Bank of Marin, Sunrise Rotary, BioMarin, Heritage Bank, CCK Corporation, Ghirardo CPA, Valley Oak Wealth Management and W. Bradley Electric, as well as Valley Memorial Park Cemetery and Funeral Home.
After informing some business owners of the grant program, Downtown Novato Business Association executive director Stephanie Koehler said some owners had emotional reactions in expressing gratitude for the support.
“I talk to my businesses daily, a vast number of them, and they are definitely hanging on by their fingernails because none of them want to close,” Koehler said.
Coy Smith, CEO of the Novato Chamber of Commerce, said the grant program is giving many business owners hope and lifting their spirits.
“They’re all excited to apply,” Smith said. “It gives them a little shot in the Arm and puts a little cash in their pocket that they can use to keep themselves afloat for another few months."
To qualify, a business must have at least one employee and a maximum of 25 employees, have no more $1,000,000 in annual gross revenue and have a physical storefront in the city.
The council also voted to include storefront nonprofit organizations and independently owned and operated franchise businesses to the list of eligible applicants. Businesses that do not qualify include home-based businesses, lending or investment institutions and insurance companies.
The city’s Economic Development Advisory Committee has formed a subcommittee that will select the grant awardees. The subcommittee members include retired residents Peter Pelham and Harry Thomas as well as Marin Builders Association CEO Rick Wells.
The city intends to begin sending grants to businesses before July 1. Should enough funding be available, a second round of funding could begin on June 1.
As of Friday, 68 grant applications were submitted.
Contributions to the fund can be made through MarinLink.
“We will continue to accept them as long as the city keeps that window open,” MarinLink executive director Mary O’Hara said. “They haven’t given us a timeline to close it.”
More information on how to apply for a grant and how to contribute to the fund can be found at novato.org/bizgrant
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