The gist: Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s plan to allocate $850,000 to a small business grant program in partnership with LEDA is on hold as it awaits approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Originally, the goal was for LCG and LEDA to start accepting applications by June 1, but that timeline has been delayed.
“We are still waiting on HUD to approve our plan,” LCG Communications Director Jamie Angelle says in an email to The Current. “I’m sure there are municipalities throughout the country who are in the same boat as us given the flood of requests.”
Word should come soon. “Last I heard is that hopefully mid-month we’ll hear back and get the site up for folks to start the application process,” Angelle continues, “but I don’t have a concrete date as of now.”
LEDA won’t share the application publicly without HUD’s nod of approval. While both LEDA and LCG have been encouraging a wide range of businesses, even independent contractors, to apply for this funding, it’s not clear yet what information is going to be required by the application or what criteria will be used to determine eligibility.
It’s expected there will be more demand for this funding than money available. LEDA estimates more than 20,000 businesses in Lafayette Parish have been hurt by the coronavirus. Documents submitted for public comment on the small business grants suggest between 250 and 350 businesses could be helped with the money.
The $850,000 grant Lafayette received from HUD came from the CARES Act. This additional funding — a variation of the flexible Community Development Block Grant program — was allocated by Congress to help municipal governments respond to the coronavirus.
LCG initially sought requests for funding for local housing nonprofits. Despite receiving 30 applications requesting $3 million in funding, Mayor-President Josh Guillory decided to shift course and propose allocating all of this money to creating a forgivable loan program for small businesses in partnership with LEDA. LEDA matched the funds with another $200,000 to add additional flexibility, bringing the total pool to more than $1 million.
After a contentious public discussion, the city and parish councils voted to approve Guillory’s plan. The primary opposing argument is that Lafayette is facing a serious housing crisis, and while most other cities were allocating some of this coronavirus response funding to help address those needs, Guillory and the councils chose not to do that.
Proponents of the administration’s plan contend that helping small businesses is the best way to keep people from losing housing. Guillory has also emphasized small businesses have nowhere else to turn, while maintaining that public and nonprofit resources are available to help with housing. Housing advocates say there isn’t nearly enough money to deal with what they fear could be a wave of homelessness.
What to watch for: If you’re a business trying to stay afloat, keep checking in on the status of this program (we’ll let readers know as soon as we hear something). If you don’t get your application in quickly, you’re not likely to receive any support, as this funding will run out fast.