Prescott Council aims to aid small businesses during COVID-19 pandemic
Updated as of Tuesday, March 24, 2020 10:39 PM
Small business owners struggling to pay their City of Prescott utility bills because of impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) are being encouraged to speak up.
“If you are struggling, come forward,” Prescott City Manager Michael Lamar said during a COVID-19 update at the Tuesday, March 24, Prescott City Council meeting.
The meeting was conducted virtually because of the threat of the virus, and the public was not allowed to attend. The meeting was livestreamed online, and residents were able to submit questions via the internet, although none were received.
In response to a question from the council about how the city was dealing with businesses’ overdue water-and-sewer bills, Lamar said the city was looking at each case separately.
“If they are experiencing problems keeping their doors open, they should contact us and we will work with them individually,” Lamar said.
Indeed, the survival of small businesses is among the many focuses of Prescott city officials as they continue navigating the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The small business man or woman is someone we really need to be concentrating on,” Lamar said.
Because cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Yavapai County (a total of four to date, according to a Tuesday afternoon, March 24, report from the Yavapai County Health Department), local bars, along with restaurants’ dine-in service, have largely been ordered to shut down (expect for takeout, delivery and drive-thru orders).
STATE, FEDERAL ACTIONS
Along with the individual arrangements for utility bills, city officials also brought up pending state and federal actions that could bring low-interest loans to struggling small businesses.
Tyler Goodman, assistant to the city manager, reported that the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARE), which is currently under discussion in Congress, would authorize emergency loans to distressed businesses.
Goodman’s report stated: “With respect to small businesses, the bill … establishes, and provides funding for, forgivable bridge loans; and provides additional funding for grants and technical assistance.”
Goodman added that the Small Business Administration has also approved an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration for Arizona, which allows small businesses impacted by COVID-19 to be eligible for up to $2 million loans.
CITY HALL IS OPEN
Although the city has shut down the lobbies at the Police Department and Fire Department, as well as the Prescott Public Library, Mayor Greg Mengarelli emphasized Tuesday that Prescott City Hall remains open for business.
In addition, “In terms of essential services, it is important that we continue on,” Mengarelli said, noting that services such as trash collection would continue on as usual.
Other services that are continuing include issuance of building permits through the Community Development Department. “We don’t want to be a bottleneck in terms of building permits,” Mengarelli said.
Officials say the status of Prescott City Hall is being evaluated continually and could change if circumstances require.
Meanwhile, the city has also kept much of its trail-and-park system open to the public, although the park and trailhead restrooms were shut down, effective March 24.
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