The Jacksonville City Council approved Tuesday a financial relief package that will give $2,000 grants to 4,500 local small businesses, self-employed workers and sole proprietors.
Businesses must employ fewer than 100 people and have lost as much as 25 percent of their revenue since February. The council also voted Tuesday to expand eligibility to sole proprietors or people who receive a 1099 tax form.
The grants will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Business owners will apply for the money on a website that is yet to be launched. Applicants must demonstrate losing at least 25 percent of their revenue directly related to the coronavirus outbreak, and business owners must show how many workers they employed as of Feb. 20.
Business owners approved for grants will receive a bank card credited with $2,000. Applicants will sign affidavits affirming their statements are true, and city officials said they have the right to audit anyone who receives the money.
The grants will be paid out of the city’s general fund, the city’s main account that pays for most essential services.
The council also approved Tuesday a plan by Councilman Garrett Dennis to add $5 million to the city’s existing $40 million grant program for residents who lost income due to the pandemic. This decision will allow 5,000 additional households to receive $1,000 grants from the city.
The small business grant program, which was proposed by Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber, is the latest financial aid package City Hall has made available to local residents and businesses who’ve been hard hit by shutdowns implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Cumber’s original plan targeted brick-and-mortar businesses, but Councilwoman Randy DeFoor last week proposed adding self-employed workers and sole proprietors into the program, arguing that many residents operate businesses out of their homes and need the money just as badly as other business owners.
The council adopted DeFoor’s amendment during Tuesday’s meeting.
The council also carved strip clubs and other adult entertainment venues out of the program. Cumber said she didn’t want taxpayers to support those businesses, which she said encourage sex trafficking and violence against women.
With Tuesday’s vote, the city has committed to distributing $77 million in financial relief to residents and business owners since the outbreak began in March.
In April, the city set aside $28 million to give $1,000 grants to the first 3,000 small businesses approved for a loan from Vystar Credit Union. The program will also pay the first-year interest for all businesses that receive a loan and future interest and principal payments for businesses that retained employees.
The city also committed $40 million in direct financial relief for residents who lost income to the pandemic. The city has already distributed $23 million in grants.