When the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was announced, HdL jumped into action to help agencies utilize funds for maximum ROI to better their communities. Barry Foster, HdL’s ECONSolutions Principal/Managing Director, found that many agencies needed guidance on where to begin. With so many uses for ARPA funds available, and each one equally important and urgently needed, how does a City or County decide where to allocate the funds to serve their community’s best interests? How does an agency prioritize public health assistance, lost revenue recovery, infrastructure improvements, technology improvements, small business recovery, economic development, hospitality assistance, and others?
The City of San Leandro, a current HdL Business License Administration client, contacted HdL for needed support to draft their ARPA strategy and ensure programs were ARPA eligible. With HdL’s help, the City developed a robust strategy including a focus on small business recovery. “Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. They support families, provide jobs, add culture, and improve neighborhoods. These businesses were hit the hardest by COVID-19 closures, operating restrictions, staff shortages, and many don’t have access to a lot of resources” said Katie Bowman, San Leandro’s Economic Development Manager.
The City’s ultimate goal is equitable economic recovery solutions, to help those businesses most dramatically impacted by the pandemic and provide additional resources to help them continue operating. The City also plans to provide training to improve operations, establish payment schedules, and provide additional resources outside of the ARPA grant project. “This is just step one to define character in the community,” reported Dhez Woodworth, Economic Development Specialist with the City.
To better understand community needs, a survey was sent to all local San Leandro businesses to gage the negative impacts of the pandemic, including lost revenue and rent that was still owed. The results along with the end of the Commercial Eviction Moratorium looming, warranted further action.
HdL’s ECONSolutions and Business License teams worked together with City staff to create and customize a Commercial Rent Relief grant program. The City has allocated $750,000 of their ARPA funding to the program with grants of $15,000 to each qualified business with a total of 50 grants possible. HdL created custom landing pages, software applications, a pre-screen application, program application, and will continue to manage a call center for additional questions with the on-line application process. Additional Spanish and Chinese translation services are being administered by HdL to accommodate the City’s diverse business community.
After HdL and the City finalized the project details and went live in just two months, Bowman shared, “We really appreciate the time, attention and responsiveness that was dedicated to this project by HdL, the thinking outside of the box and the new processes created on both sides. Our team is nimble, but we have limitations as a small city. We would not have been able to maintain day-to-day operations while rolling out a project of this caliber. It’s hard to let others represent the City, but we had already created a strong relationship through HdL’s Business License services. The firm brought additional skill sets to the table that allowed the City to continue providing the services that our community expects.”
The grant program has already proven to be successful with 175 pre-screened applications received. Stay tuned for further updates.