AJ's Burgers Beef and Beef

AJ’s was one of the local businesses to benefit from the Small Business Stabilization Fund.

The West Lafayette Board of Works granted thousands of dollars of relief money to local businesses through its 2020 Small Business Stabilization Fund at its Tuesday meeting.

The program was conceived last spring, when the city’s Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee allocated $500,000 collected in previous years to help small businesses disrupted by the pandemic. The grant program became vital as Indiana’s lockdown crippled many small businesses.

Businesses can apply online at the city website for different grants depending on their size. The grant money may be used for rent, utilities, insurance, payroll, retooling operations or to compensate for lost revenue. So far, 23 businesses have been approved and received a total of $280,000.

To receive money, businesses must have lost income due to COVID-19, be located in low-to-moderate income areas of West Lafayette, have local ownership and their owners must earn less than 80% of their area’s median income.

Preference is given to businesses with a physical location over those that work remotely.

“The priority will be given to low- to moderate-income business owners and businesses that felt a greater impact during lockdown, such as restaurants,” said Jenifer Van Schuyver, community development and communications manager.

Brian Panek, an employee at AJ’s burger restaurant, said the owners and employees each had to fill out forms detailing the coronavirus’s effect on their hours and wages. AJ’s received $15,000 in aid.

Emergent Solar Energy, a contractor that designs and installs solar panels for businesses, received $10,000 from the city. Owner Jeremy Lipinski said businesses that lost revenue were struggling to invest in solar energy, which caused many of the company’s projects to be delayed or halted. Other projects were canceled entirely, he said.

The fund was helpful and “somewhat unexpected,” he said, adding that grants are usually hard to acquire and cannot provide “real, tangible aid.”

“This program delivered everything that was advertised,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of the help I received from the people that ran the program ... Hopefully, it helps the small businesses in the area survive and move forward. It did for me.”

Business owners can determine if they are in a low- to moderate-income area using a map highlighting these city blocks and whether their income qualifies based on a chart, both of which are included with the application.

Businesses with five or fewer employees and low- to moderate-income owners qualify for $10,000 grants as “microenterprises.” Those with six or more employees and low- to moderate-income owners can receive $15,000 through the Special Economics Development program.

Van Schuyver said applications are still being processed. Of the 155 applications that have been submitted, over half were rejected because they failed to meet the criteria.

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