The rapid onset of COVID-19 in March marked the beginning of months of hardship for local small business as they struggled to adjust to sudden closures and lack of business. Knowing that these stores are crucial contributors to the economy, the City of Hammond began devising ways to help support local businesses, the product of these efforts being Hammond’s Small Business Resiliency Program.
“When we got word in mid-March that the state was going into phase 1 of the shutdown, we immediately started thinking how this would impact our nonessential businesses,” said Anne Anderson, Director of Economic Development for the City of Hammond. “We knew that a lot of these mom and pop places might not have the means to shut down operation for a month or two, and so our first reaction was ‘How do we help?’”
Anderson and her team got to work investigating options, getting information on what approaches other cities across the country were taking and putting together the best plan of action to help sustain Hammond’s small business sector. A few weeks into the project, they got word from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that they could allocate funds typically received for housing, shelter, and community development toward economic development in light of the effects of the pandemic.
“HUD widened their scope of assistance due through the Covid Cares Act, and that opened a door for us to create the Small Business Resiliency program,” Anderson said. “In developing the plan for this program, we did a lot of research and back and forth communication with HUD, as well as other economic development directors in the area. Then on May 20th,we unveiled the full program and posted it on our website and social media.”
The plan is open to small businesses that meet the criteria of having 50 employees or less, are not a chain, are located in a commercial area in Hammond, and are able show that they endured some type of loss during the pandemic.
“We also had to make sure that if any businesses were receiving other grants, such as a PPP loan, that we weren’t duplicating those benefits,” Anderson explained. “If that wasn’t the case then we could give up to $10,000 assistance which they do not need to pay back if they remain located in Hammond for the next year.”
Businesses can use these funds toward rent, mortgage, utilities, and even proper safety supplies as covid proceeds with an uncertain future.
“Initially our thought was figuring out how to help businesses get through the shutdown without taking a huge hit financially, but as we see the pandemic continue, we’re now shifting focus and seeing that this money can also help them adapt to the safety requirements of remaining open,” Anderson said. “They can now purchase masks, sanitizing equipment, and face shields to continue functioning safely and not worry about the extra expenses behind that.”
This program is the first of its kind in Hammond, and its swift establishment and implementation is a testament to the outstanding efforts of the City’s employees.
“The fact that we created this program form the ground up is exciting for us. We feel really good that we were able to get this federal money and tailor it in a new and exciting way to help our small businesses through these challenging times,” Anderson said. “We’ve never done something like this before, and we had countless meetings to makes sure we did it right.”
“Small businesses are so important for our community, especially in Hammond where we have such a diverse group of people who are really the backbone of our economy,” Anderson continued. “We’re going to do whatever we can to help them weather this storm and keep them going for years to come.”
To learn more about Hammond’s Small Business Resiliency Program visit http://www.gohammond.com/departments/planning-and-development/economic-development/small-business-resiliency-program/.