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Brockton launches small-business recovery program with grants up to $7,000

The city government is sending money to downtown businesses that they do not need to repay.

April 7, 2020 : The Enterprise, by Ben Berke

BROCKTON – To counter the devastating effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the local economy, the city government is offering downtown businesses grants worth as much as $7,000 to help pay expenses, with no repayment required.

The Brockton Redevelopment Authority has already begun accepting grant applications through a short form on the authority’s website.

Robert Jenkins, the Brockton Redevelopment Authority’s executive director, said the grants are meant as a “Band-Aid” solution for businesses’ immediate expenses as the federal Small Business Administration rolls out relief programs that can dole out larger sums.

To qualify for the Brockton grants, businesses must be inside downtown Brockton’s Transformative Development Initiative district, which includes Main Street from Court Street to Maple Avenue and stretches several blocks east and west.

The boundaries of the districts were determined years ago as a way for the state government to disburse money and send trained economic planners to urban areas. A map showing the boundaries is on the front page of the grant application.

Jenkins said between 20 and 25 businesses were inside the district before the state ordered all nonessential businesses to close due to the pandemic.

“I’m sure once we’re through with this, whenever it ends, we’d be fortunate if no one closed permanently,” Jenkins said.

The grant program can distribute a total of about $42,000 that MassDevelopment, the state agency that created the Transformative Development Initiative district, sent to Brockton to help the city’s downtown withstand the economic damage caused by the coronavirus.

Jenkins said that pool of money could grow. The federal government awarded Brockton more than $800,000 through a Community Development Block Grant last week, and Jenkins expects some of that money will be allocated by the mayor to expand the grant program.

The program doesn’t have enough money to give grants to every small business in the downtown, Jenkins said.

The two-page application asks business owners to describe their company and the effect the coronavirus has had on it. Owners can request a specific amount of money, provided that they estimate how much of it would go toward rent, payroll, utilities and other expenses.

Owners are also asked to estimate how long they can stay open with their current cash reserves.

Business owners who are not fluent in English may contact the Brockton Redevelopment Authority for translation help. Brockton Redevelopment Authority staff speak Spanish and Cape Verdean Creole. Jenkins said translation is not available for Haitian Creole speakers.

City officials expect that business owners could receive the grant money as early as next week.

The program, larger than similar municipal efforts in Brockton’s suburbs, is meant to dovetail with loan programs under development by the Small Business Administration, which has not yet transferred money to Brockton-area businesses, Jenkins said.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans, one of several relief programs the Small Business Administration is rolling out, include advances of up to $10,000 that don’t need to be repaid.

The agency’s Paycheck Protection Program offers a different kind of low-interest loan to small businesses. Companies that maintain their staff during the pandemic can receive loan forgiveness for up to eight weeks of payroll based on employee retention and salary levels.

A separate emergency loan program for small businesses administered by the state government quickly dried up after it was announced, with about $10 million distributed within 36 hours of the program’s launch.

Applications to Brockton’s local relief program are due by April 17.