$200,000 Pandemic Relief Grant Program Now Open to Brookfield Small Businesses

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the costs of personal protective equipment, lost revenue, layoffs and temporary closures came with a long list of expenses incurred by the local business community.

Now, as the severity of the pandemic sees a gradual return to normal, cities and towns across the state are using federal pandemic relief money to try to help the city’s small businesses bounce back. — local efforts adding to the tides of economic relief provided to businesses across the country through initiatives such as the US Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Last September, Bethel’s Board of Selectmen voted to allocate $350,000 of federal stimulus money provided by the US American Rescue Plan, commonly known as ARPA, to create a small business relief program.

In Brookfield, a special town assembly vote last month approved a similar plan to use ARPA money to fund a $200,000 grant program for small businesses that is now accepting applications. First female selector Tara Carr said this week that the grants program was already receiving “many applications” but could accommodate more.

“We just have to keep communicating this and publicizing it and getting the word out as best we can,” Carr said.

According to Brookfield economic and community development specialist Greg Dembowski, only licensed businesses and nonprofits registered with a physical address in the city and who can show an annual gross income of less than $1 million before the pandemic are eligible to apply for up to $5,000 in grants under the Small Business Grants Program; but they must do so by 2 p.m. on Friday, May 6.

“I can say that since the pandemic, and just last week, small business owners have been calling to say they are struggling to keep their doors open. [and] have suffered a significant loss of income and are asking for help,” Dembowski said in an email, adding that his office received 9 grant applications on Friday.

“I’m asking all small businesses in town to consider applying for a grant and to call my office if they have any questions or need more information,” he said.

Once submitted, a special committee comprised of the city’s tax assessor, economic development officer and three members of the Economic Development Commission will review applications and score them against a list of seven criteria, including financial needs, business viability, intended use of funds and economic hardship.

Dembowski said applications will only be accepted from currently operating companies that are, “in good standing and current on [their] federal, state and local tax obligations.

Interested business owners can submit funding requests to Dembowski by email, gdembowski@BrookfieldCT.gov, or mail them to him at Land Use Office inside Brookfield Town Hall. More information about the program and a copy of the application is available on the city’s website, www.brookfieldct.gov.

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